Fantasy & Sci Fi

A Fray of Furies
André van Wyck
Independently Published
9781089293477              $6 (eBook) $11.00 (paperback)

 A Fray of Furies, the second book in The Waking Worlds series, sets the back story so perfectly, no prior familiarity with book one (A Clatter of Chains) is needed. Newcomers can appreciate book two as a stand-alone fantasy adventure.

 The prologue is set in the distant past. It opens with war-like siblings, founding the perfect colony to rebuild their naval nation, following the devastation of the Fall.

 Thell, and its threats, should be half a world away. They discover the danger has trailed after them. Nobody had thought to watch for monsters among them. But one (or more) has slipped past.

  The colony grows into the present-day Heli Empire, spanning several continents and thousands of years. Chapter One introduces the woodswoman who must confront Thell’s legacy: the deadly, shape-shifting krin, that hunt the Hillmen territories.

 (It should be noted that, despite being a coming-of-age story, A Fray of Furies is recommended for adults and mature teens. Graphic descriptions of gore and death, though appropriate to the setting, precludes recommendation for younger readers.)

 The characters are motivated by desperation as often as by sacred duty. A host of thieves, assassins, witches, priests, and madmen add their own special interests. The story line is complex, fast-paced, and remarkably astute in observing how disparate forces vie, veer and overlap.

 A Fray of Furies provides an absorbing (and challenging) read for mature fantasy fans. Shifting perspectives and in-depth atmospheres offer an intricacy not found in the majority of similar works or leisurely reads.

 Author André van Wyck intersects past and present with convincing political and survival interests. Each engrossing encounter adds to an overall game of cat-and-mouse, playing out on the personal, societal, or (possibly) planetary level.

 Unintended heroes rise and impossible beings come into power. Straddling the unseen front line, it seems only Kassika Blackwater perceives the...wolf at humanity's throat, hidden in sheep skin. With [her charge] neither the wolf nor even the sheep, but the skin. A patchwork quilt, stitched from scraps of victim's lives.”

 Van Wyck's evocative descriptions, multifaceted settings, complex characters, and ability to inject wry humor sets A Fray of Furies apart from staid, predictable stories. This multifarious creation is a sterling example of high(est) fantasy. Very highly recommended for mature teens and adult fantasy fans.

A Fray of Furies
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Anne Marie Lutz
Hydra Publications
978-1948374170     $14.99
Author website:

Fantasy story Taylenor's vivid opening is reminiscent of Vonda McIntyre's Dreamsnake story about a healer...but without the snakes: "Jaena knew as soon as she set foot in the village that a gifted child lived there. She opened up her senses and cast wide. Taylen lay over the place like a layer of mist floating over fields on a damp morning. Her first thought was to run away." This talented priestess also journeys to villages, to bless births and sing the souls of the departed to her goddess, until one day she stumbles upon a boy with the rare gift of taylen, which is linked to a fatal illness. 

The best of intentions often go awry, as they do here when Jaena thinks she is helping save young Wiel by taking him to a safe city, only to discover she's delivered him to the very force that threatens him: the Mage Defender, who actually steals magic from children. 

She's studied to be a priest for years, and has long known her duty and where her loyalties lay—until now. 

Taylenor's ability to create a magical world, infuse it with the strong personality of protagonist Jaena, and draw readers into a series of disastrous realizations that lead the formerly faithful Jaena to question everything ("The sky spun. Her whole world was not what she thought it had been, and her part in it was far different from what she had thought.") lends to an evocative tale that is nearly impossible to put down, once begun. 

As old Mage Herrein, threats from Easterners, and the betrayal of longtime guide Mother Thara each affect Jaena's journey, readers are drawn into a world that feels realistic, believable, and compelling. 

Much as the renowned Vonda McIntyre achieved a superior blend of individual challenge and angst and broader social commentary in Dreamsnake, so Anne Marie Lutz's Taylenor holds a similar yet different kind of draw—one that successfully crafts a world of magic, tests it with forces of loyalty and betrayal, and includes considerations of the real tests of power and heritage: "With no taylen to give her more than ordinary ability, would her people still follow her? What was the power of centuries of worship and Ark-amne’s personality worth?" 

Lutz's ability to create a magical dilemma that forces her characters to think about set life purposes and ultimate journeys makes this fantasy tale more than just another quest story. Taylenor holds a resolve and power that makes for a thoroughly engrossing, often satisfyingly unpredictable read in which true friends come together to expose hidden enemies. 

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Warrior Rising
J. L. Nicely
Braintree Press
Paperback: 978-1-7321010-2-9    $15.00
Ebook: 978-1-7321010-3-6           $4.99 

Warrior Rising is the second book in the Womara series, complimenting the prior Unconquered Warrior with a continuing story that will especially be appreciated by prior fans who enjoyed Nicely's sweeping epic of this woman's world. 

Seanna, a scout for the Womara, is heading home after crossing the treacherous mountain pass to reunite with a king. She has saved James’ life, gaining his favor and now his love. She returns with a treaty between their realms and will stand before the new alliance of clans who could hold the fate of her clan’s future. 

Even as her love for James grows, she questions how to bridge the divide of their two different worlds, and treachery arises again to threaten the course of her life. 

Warrior Rising follows Seanna's foray into political realms and battles of heart and mind. From the new alliance's obstructions to building a trading port and the growing strength of James and Seanna's formidable partnership, Warrior Rising expands the Womara’s world with a carefully constructed story of strategic unions, powerful alliances, and the deepening relationships of the Womara women. 

Readers who appreciated the setting created in Unconquered Warrior will enjoy the many new dimensions explored in this sequel, which enlarges upon not just James and Seanna's growing relationship, and its uncertainties, but perspectives into the mind of the villain Lord Orman, a character you love to hate. 

The result is a sweeping epic that is as rooted in political developments as it is romance and personal quests. It is a tale that will delight fantasy fans who like their characters strong and adept, but vulnerable. The story promises more books in the series and is highly recommended for epic fantasy readers who seek stories of powerful women and their continued fight for independence. 

Warrior Rising
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Biography & Autobiography

Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal
Darwin Porter & Danforth Prince
Blood Moon Productions
9781936003631             $34.95 

Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal combines biographical inspection with the dramatic flourishes of a gossip column based on fact and well-researched events, and is brought to life by colorful language surrounding a flamboyant character indeed. 

Blood Moon Productions creates examinations that are notable not just for their high drama and exposés, but for details that make them weighty and absorbing. Burt Reynolds is yet another example of their approach. It's no light read, but weighs in at 680 pages packed with black and white photos ranging from posters and ads to screen shots, candid images, magazine covers, and more. 

All this is the icing on the cake of detail, because Porter and Price focus on not just Burt Reynolds' life and notable (to shocking) actions, but his overall impact on Hollywood and celebrity productions themselves. 

Thus, the exposé that comes steeped in sensationalist facts also is tempered by psychological examination and insights, news reports, behind-the-scenes probes of his public image and private life, revelations of not just this hellraising character's powerful impact on the world, but the influences on his tumultuous life's development. 

Few other actors have captured the public imagination and eye like Burt Reynolds. And few (read: no) other books delve so deeply into the oddities, ironies, struggles, and controversies that swirled around Burt. 

These facets, combined with a solid attention to describing Hollywood politics and processes, sets Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal more than a notch above any other book about the man. It's a powerful survey based on source material research and comes packed with quotes, observations, insights and revelations. 

No Hollywood history or celebrity biography collection should be without Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal. 

Burt Reynolds: Put the Pedal to the Metal
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Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence
Ross Suozzi
Cancer It's Not a Death Sentence
978-1-94963-997-1                $19.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper 

Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence is about reaching for happiness and recovery in the face of sudden life-threatening situations like cancer, and reviews the caregiving, life, and health challenges of survivors and members of Ross Suozzi's family. 

Suozzi faced his own cancer; then that of his wife and eldest son. The first thing to note about his story is that it combines a memoir format with health advocacy and insights on combating huge challenges with bigger pictures in mind, both about the role of health professionals during this battle and the ultimate goal of families challenged by health developments: "The doctors and nurses weren’t there to give us special attention, coach us, or teach us everything we needed to know to survive each day, and they were most definitely not there to help us think about becoming and staying happy. They were working to keep our bodies alive, but it was up to each of us to keep our lives going. After diagnosis and during treatments, different aspects of each of our lives fell apart in ways that we had not anticipated. And we needed to learn quickly about things that we had never before thought we’d need to know." 

One of cancer's side effects is that it isolates sufferers and their families in insidious ways. Suozzi attacks this sense of distance in the introduction to his story ("The purpose of this book is to help you navigate and cope with that feeling, believe in yourself, and keep your friendships, your family, and your life intact while you work on kicking cancer’s ass."), creating a road map of positive goals that moves beyond the usual focus on recovery and into the arena of building a better life not just despite, but because of a cancer diagnosis. 

Because Suozzi lived thorough not just his own role as a cancer patient in recovery, but as a caregiver helping other family members with their own struggles, his book includes a great deal of insights on the special concerns of the cancer caregiver: "There may be a point in your caregiving task where it becomes extremely clear that recovery is not attainable. But that does not change the need for you to be supportive. I encourage you and, should you have them, your team of family and friends to find a way to take a positive approach to the precious time your loved one may have. My family’s experience has shown us that difficult times are made easier if they are filled with what is most meaningful to us."  

Where other cancer memoirs often become singular focuses blending personal experience with recovery and medical insights, Suozzi's ability to cover both sides of the cancer coin creates an atmosphere that is as specific about emotional hurdles as it is about treatments, what works and what doesn't, and how to handle not just physical but psychological and social challenges surrounding cancer. 

This cancer survivor's ability to incorporate all these facets under one cover represents a unique approach to his subject that will educate and enlighten not just fellow sufferers, but caregivers, families, friends, and anyone whose lives have been touched by a cancer diagnosis. 

Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence is an unexpectedly inspirational ray of light in the literature of cancer survivors. It should be on the bookshelves and reading lists of anyone touched by a cancer diagnosis. 

Cancer: It's Not a Death Sentence
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Dear Hubby of Mine: Home Front Wives in World War II
Diane Phelps Budden
Red Rock Mountain Press 
ISBN: 978-0-578-55760-1               $17.99    

Dear Hubby of Mine: Home Front Wives in World War II is a true story based on loving letters between Diane Phelps Budden's parents during the war. What might have been a singular publishing of these works expands into broader horizons because it's been enhanced by her research done at U.S. National Archives, military libraries, and other sources to provide background for these intimate mailed discussions. 

The romantic story Budden uncovers is further strengthened by the fact that her parents led long lives with strong memories of events which allowed her to not only become interested in their lives, as an adult, but to question them about the past. 

From immigrant experiences during the conflict to changing womens' roles because of war, these letters serve as a basis for closely examining one of the biggest pushes for social change to occur in U.S. history. 

It should also be noted that while the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II will be celebrated in 2020, most participants of that era have since passed, making works like these letters some of the only eyewitness legacies of the times—and thus making their publication and discussion even more important. 

The heartfelt contents of these letters ("Darling Dearest: All day long I waited for tonight. The later it got the more nervous I got thinking maybe you couldn’t get through. The thought of hearing your voice in the evening made me so peppy all day. I just worked and worked, thinking the harder I worked the faster the time will pass, and soon evening will come.") is nicely juxtaposed with the facts Budden uncovers ("Once the war started the shortage of suitable fabrics for clothing was challenging, especially when rationing of textiles began. Ready-to-wear clothes had gained acceptance but were costly to purchase. Like other women, Irma reused—make do or reuse was the slogan—dress fabrics for her own clothes and for the children."). 

Part of the challenge of writing successfully lies in the author's ability to breathe new life into the story. Dear Hubby of Mine does what too few World War II titles achieve: it blends personal experience with broader social examination, it pairs researched history with examples from everyday lives, and it captures both the certainties and uncertainties of relationships conducted on the battlefields of the heart: "Dearest Lou: How are you? There is much fighting going on there. I’m pretty sure you must be in the midst of it. I wasn’t prepared this time for the Bull going out. I only received six letters in all this period. It seems you could have written more. In the last [letters] there was a check in each. Of course, you may have written some that can’t be passed [by censors] until you are back again. Or maybe you didn’t just bother writing. Which is it?"). 

The result is a remarkably poignant, educational observational piece that is rich in emotions and background insights ("For the four million or more home front war wives, the stress of being separated from their husbands were magnified by the challenges of managing household and family responsibilities in the face of shortages and rationing. For most wives, this was the first time they had the role of head of household, and at younger ages, since many were newlyweds.  Raised among immigrant families, Irma didn’t expect any assistance from community resources, and didn’t know how to access them anyhow."): a powerful example of how history should be anything but dry and uninvolved. 

Under Diane Phelps Budden's hand, her parents' experiences and love comes to life with hard-earned lessons for others who may be struggling with separation, social change, and the demands of being war wives and husbands committed to both country and each other. 

No World War II, feminist, or social history collection should be without this vibrant, enlightening survey that seamlessly puts the personal touch back into social, political, and military issues. 

Dear Hubby of Mine is not just the story of one husband and wife. It's a snapshot of the experiences of a nation under siege on the battlefields of social change. 

Dear Hubby of Mine: Home Front Wives in World War II
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Paying the Rent
Dick Eiden
Lymer & Hart/Garden Oak Press
978-1-7323753-5-2                $17.95

Paying the Rent: Adventures of a Left Coast Activist Lawyer from the Turbulent '60s to the Era of Donald Trump: A Memoir follows the retired lawyer author's cross-country journeys as an activist, neatly capturing events and legal challenges from a perspective most memoirs about the 1960s don't touch. 

It's a chronicle of American civil rights history, activism, and how Dick Eiden joined a legal movement to support political wars on the home front. It surveys not just Eiden's personal evolution, but the rise of his political consciousness and how he used his profession to help advance his ideals, from the Native American struggle for rights to modern immigrant issues. 

It's Eiden's professional perspective, combined with his Leftist political leanings, which makes Paying the Rent such a unique presentation. Stories of 1960s activism, social change, and personal transformation abound; but rarely are they wrapped in the perspective of a blossoming lawyer who discovers his purpose through linking his professional world to the social revolutions happening around him. 

As Eiden traverses a rapidly-changing landscape of social and legal challenges to freedom, he operates at the cusp of social change in this country, using his legal prowess to confront and battle challenges to freedom. Paying the Rent further documents the mercurial world of legal efforts from the perspective of an individual whose personal and professional life is also constantly in flux: "Life was good in the Santa Barbara Legal Collective where I learned so much about law, political organizing and life. We all felt a spirit of purpose and camaraderie, and an optimism about how we could help change the world. The Selective Service cases kept me busy and brought good income into the collective, but those cases were drying up." 

As Eiden traverses the world and encounters issues beyond America's borders, he gains additional knowledge of struggles that reinforce his Marxist ideals and their importance: "No matter what country we were in, we spoke the same language of the international proletariat Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao. It was great for me to be around political people like them. At home, I spent much of my time talking to people about our inconsequential cultural and consumer things. We did not immerse ourselves in world issues 24/7 like these exiles." 

Readers interested in stories of the '60s might choose this book expecting another American-centric focus, but it should be cautioned that this is no singular rehash of either an individual life or American ideals alone. It's a world-hopping survey of the social and legal presence of leftist ideology in other countries, as well as domestically. 

The result is a 1960s memoir with a big difference: a focus on social activism and personal responsibility that follows how one lawyer pushes the boundaries of his profession so that it reflects his growth and his ethical, moral, and legal ideals. 

This wide-ranging approach weaves a sense of adventure and transformation into his memoir, creating in a story hard to put down, packed with thought-provoking moments. This makes it a draw for not just legal beagles and 1960s American history readers, but to anyone interested in the political and cultural undercurrents of American society in its fight for values, dreams, and civil liberties. 

Paying the Rent
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Mystery & Thrillers

ChoirMaster: A Mister Puss Mystery
Michael Craft
Questover Press
Hardcover: 978-0-578-52330-9     $24.95
Paperback: 978-0-578-52375-0    $14.95
Kindle: B07V5ZK8SH                  $  4.95 

ChoirMaster: A Mister Puss Mystery adds the second book to a new series that began with FlabberGassed and pairs a talking cat's tale with a crisis that circles around marriage, faith, and a troubled Wisconsin church. It combines the thwarted romances of a Peyton Place-type atmosphere with murder. 

Abyssinian cat Mister Puss is at the center of these events, lending a paw to his human guardian Mary Questman's life and communicating with her via telepathy. Mister Puss is already a seasoned feline investigator, but events challenge human and cat alike as St. Alban's new rector, Joyce Hibbard, taps Mary to help her church move forward. 

The story isn't told from Mary's viewpoint or by Mister Puss alone, however. The narration moves between perspectives and incorporates different character perceptions and experiences, creating a fluid, multifaceted production. The changing perspectives provide a delightful opportunity to view events not just through Mary's eyes, but through others who encounter Mary and her cat, as in this scene dealing with leash training: "Now, now, Mister Puss,” said Mary, “let’s not make such a racket.” She stooped to pick up the gadget and tried to reel him in toward her heel, but the cat would have none of it. He plopped down on his side as she dragged him across the slick floor to her jaunty yellow Ferragamo pumps." 

From investments gone awry and the financial and political influences on building a new church versus restoring the old one to a shocking death and its ramifications, ChoirMaster operates on many levels to provide an intriguing, fast-paced story. 

Michael Craft takes time to stop and smell the roses (or, in this case, to add atmospheric observations), and this is yet another strength to a story that provides a "you are there" feel rather than just documenting events: "The grounds were looking perfect at that time of year, with the summer annuals in riotous full bloom. The golf course, built in the 1920s before the wide availability of heavy earthmoving equipment, was designed to the natural contours of the land, punctuated by rocky outcroppings that had been left by a prehistoric glacier. Immaculate fairways, groomed and green, extended off toward the gentle hills as Glee drove the winding entryway beneath a canopy of oaks. Sapphire splotches of the noontide sky peeked through a matrix of leaves and dappled the windshield with dancing, pristine sunbeams." 

Readers looking for a murder mystery that goes beyond a whodunit to probe the hearts, minds, and lives of small town residents will relish the realistic setting, diverse characters, and quirky cat profiled in ChoirMaster. It's a mystery that continues to build upon the Mister Puss character as a satisfying series addition while standing nicely alone on its own four paws. 

ChoirMaster: A Mister Puss Mystery
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Clarkston's Curse
Ann Margaret Johns
Ann J Downey, Publisher
978-0999345702            $14.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle 

When murders and mayhem struck a peaceful rural small town community that Ann Johns' parents escaped to from urban Detroit, young Ann did what many do, to cope: filed all her memories in a mental folder and locked them away for decades. 

Clarkston's Curse: One Child's Quest to Explain the Series of Tragedies in Her Hometown unlocks that folder, takes out these files, and recreates the traumatic experiences that changed not only her life, but the lives of forty families in rural Clarkston, Michigan. 

Her examination represents a powerful recreation of not just the events of one small town, but the atmosphere of growing up in 1960s and 70s America in a time and place that served as a microcosmic example of the escalation of violence in this nation.

Narrated in the first person from the viewpoint of young Ann Johns, homespun events such as pie on the porch with grandma and the family tragedy of a lost pregnancy intersect with broader social issues and community challenges as murder rears its head not once or twice, but repeatedly, hacking away at the idyllic perceptions of childhood in a small rural town. 

By adopting her younger persona's observational style and presenting her vivid memories as in-the-moment experiences, Johns draws readers into this atmosphere more thoroughly than any third person examination could have created. Her account touches on issues of different kinds of violence; the effects of death and news reports about it on children; religious lessons about death; and a child's questions about her role in affecting the world around her ("Do you think it could be possible that I am the curse, Grandma?" "People don't get cursed, Annie. They get possessed. And you are hardly possessed."). 

Each facet is thoroughly immersed in a child's perspective, logic, and ability to cope with the very adult and life-ending issues faced by a community, exploring reactions to events which adults around her have difficulty understanding or explaining to a child. 

The result is a powerful story of an entire community's repeated and ongoing confrontations with loss and how that translates to and, years later, impacts the next generation. 

Superb in its logic, memories, and unfolding drama, Clarkston's Curse captures the personal angle through a child's-eye view of modern America's social struggles with violence. It should be in any collection strong in American history, culture, social issues, and children's psychology. 

Clarkston's Curse
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A Killer Carnival
Jeanette de Beauvoir
Homeport Press
Paperback: 978-0-9992451-8-7     $12.99
Ebook: 978-0-9992451-9-4      $4.99 

A Killer Carnival: A Provincetown Mystery is the fourth book in the Sydney Riley series and is set in a colorful town planning for its equally colorful annual Carnival Parade. Sydney's nose for trouble is awakened when her boyfriend's police officer sister shows up and begins making inquiries. 

Jeanette de Beauvoir's wry sense of humor and ability to capture immediate attention is evident from the very first sentences, which are revealing and fun: "By the time the float exploded, we were all far enough away that it was only ear-splittingly loud rather than lethal. I guess one has to be grateful for the small things in life. Like… well, life. I don’t usually spend a lot of time around objects that explode, so the experience was a new one." 

Readers are immersed in the mystery of an exploding float and murder attempt that grabs reader interest even before relationships, mystery, and investigative premises are introduced. These subplots flush out the setting and circumstances that make A Killer Carnival so realistically engrossing. 

Provincetown is flagrantly outrageous, and so is Sydney's course as she faces criminals, life-changing circumstances, and insights that lead her to make some realizations about her choices and progress in the world. 

De Beauvoir does an outstanding job of creating suspense, capturing a vivid personality's unique narrative style, and crafting a mystery from the story's first few lines, but she doesn't leave newcomers in the lurch over Sydney's background. This is presented after the gripping opener, which makes for an irresistible addition to the story's introduction ("How is it that stories begin? “It all started when…”). 

Newcomers and prior Sydney fans thus receive a tale accessible to all, powered with a compelling observational style that does more than just narrate a mystery, placing readers squarely in Provincetown's atmosphere: "P’town being P’town, a lot of the floats feature loud music and scantily clad well-oiled impossibly handsome young men dancing suggestively to a throbbing bass beat. Our float, I’d liked to think, was somewhat more subtle. Apparently not subtle enough. Or maybe I just don’t have a handle on subtlety anymore. I live in one of the least subtle places in the world, a town aggressively in your face about everything, a town with swagger to spare. I’d like to add that, technically speaking, none of this was my fault." 

By now, it should be evident that readers who choose A Killer Carnival are in for a rare treat. It's an explosive (literally) combination of intrigue, suspense, and psychological insight set in an atmospheric, colorful locale that benefits from the author's personal familiarity with P-town's eccentrics and sometimes-questionable characters. 

Packed with motive and heart-stopping moments and spiced by Sydney's irreverent wit and sense of humor, A Killer Carnival is mystery writing at its finest. It's especially recommended for prior readers, but is quite accessible to newcomers seeking superior stories, memorable characters, and fast-paced action. 

A Killer Carnival
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The Meat Hunter
Megan Allen
Burn House Publishing

Fans of crime stories and thrillers will find The Meat Hunter provides just the ticket with a read that skirts the borders between detective pieces and tales of intrigue, offering many differences that places it above others and alongside some of the best reads in each of these genres. 

It opens with an intriguing visual ad for a pig farm's meats, highlights an actual recorded event from an Iowa pig farm, then moves deftly into a story that begins 20 years in the past, when little girl Molly lies in the dirt, clutching a big boar and crying over it. 

Fast forward to the first hunting day of the season, the now-adult Molly Bishop's favorite day and a time when she participates in the hunt in a different way than most. 

As issues of animal and human cruelty meld with the psyche of a woman who has become, in essence, the thing she abhors, readers are treated to a vivid, engrossing story of a serial killer who chooses her victims with a special purpose, attacking the meat industry which formed her root experiences and encounters with cruelty. 

Molly's special brand of revenge, to her mind, is every bit as moral and ethical as life-affirming decisions, and her logic and life play out in a story line replete with reflections on issues ranging from animal cruelty and meat industry practices to hunting and pharmaceutical uses for animals. 

Megan Allen does more than scratch the surface of social and moral issues. She delves into the making and mind of a murderer and presents a powerful female character whose descent into madness is finely detailed, logical, and every bit as strong as murder mysteries featuring the usual male protagonist: "Her whole life had been a crawl through pity, a crawl through the slime of acquiescence, accepting the carnage around her as something to be despised, but tolerated. That day, right there in the road, Molly would change." 

The Meat Hunter may not be appropriate for readers sensitive to descriptions of animal cruelty, but murder mystery fans who look for ethical and moral conundrums wound into an absorbing story line will find it compelling reading indeed. 

The specific processes of a murder investigation that's constantly thwarted by a clever woman more than able to cover her tracks are nicely detailed in cat-and-mouse games of detective work ("It wasn’t loose. We both saw that busted collar. That took anger. And rage. A car pulling into the driveway might serve as an irritant to an already irritable dog, but it’s not likely to fly into enough of a tantrum to break free. But seeing its owner beaten and left for dead; that would do it. That would push the big sunovabitch right over the edge. That dog got her on the way out, not the way in.”), while entwined relationships gone bad create backdrops of discovery and insight to keep readers engaged. 

As paradoxes and ironies mount, mystery and thriller fans receive a thoroughly engrossing tale that lingers in the mind long after the story's conclusion, creating satisfying twists and turns that lead to more than one surprise. 

The Meat Hunter
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No Good Deed: A Sam Dawson Mystery
Steven W. Horn
Granite Peak Press
978-0-9991248-1-9 (cloth)   $29.00
978-0-9991248-7-1 (paper)  $17.95
978-0-9991248-9-5 (ebook)  $ 4.99
Release date: November 7, 2019 

No Good Deed adds to the Sam Dawson series and follows the photographer/historian's latest attempt to unravel a mystery of the past. This latest revolves around a dead teacher who knew the truth about a boy's fatal shooting a century before, and who reaches out from beyond the grave to compel Sam to help solve the mystery once and for all. 

One delightful aspect of No Good Deed is that it isn't about a singular mystery, but the entanglements and process of Sam Dawson's life as he struggles with romance, a long-dead legacy, and political impacts he never expected. He's an expert in locating lost graves, not in matters of heart and political process, but his expertise is dragging him into affairs that begin with good intentions and push him into puzzling conundrums. 

No Good Deed holds the signature combination of strong characters and well-developed tension which made the other Sam Dawson books appealing, but adds a new level of intrigue and discovery to expand the dimensions of Sam's experiences and test his decision-making process. 

At every turn, there's intrigue and tension; from the opener which indicates vindication is in the wind for a wrongful death to Sam's encounter with Cricket, ranching history, health care costs, and links between cemeteries and graves and present-day politics. 

The subplots and tense revelations that challenge and change Sam's life drive a hard-hitting mystery that takes history and personalizes it, from a great grandmother's possible lie to the lasting, far-reaching impact of bad decisions and deadly outcomes. 

Sam's interactions with his daughter, a potential love, and the past all spice an engrossing mystery recommended for all ages, from advanced high schoolers and new adults to adult genre readers who will appreciate the added touch of history and romance injected into a vivid story of discovery. 

No Good Deed: A Sam Dawson Mystery
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The Salvation Project
Joe Rothstein
Opus Self-Publishing Services/Politics & Prose
978-1-62429-237-8         $29.50 Hardcover 

The Salvation Project is a stand-alone sequel to Joe Rothstein's The Latina President, and opens with the atmospheric description of an odd meeting between a Muslim imam and businessman Javier Carmona, who doesn't know the reason why he's being called in. An important deal with huge potential profits, a business arrangement between Turkey and Mexico, and a tricky imam's manipulation of matters to enlist Javier's help in helping him take control of the U.S. is the opening salvo in a story packed with tension, high-octane action, and a threat couched as a desperate effort to save humanity, called The Salvation Project. 

From the start, Rothstein excels in an approach that blends a logical progression of political and personal special interests with a story that feels firmly rooted in international perceptions and modern times. One can easily imagine such a project, such a purpose, and such an arrangement between religious ideology and business interests, and this is the first spark that makes The Salvation Project a compelling read. 

The second strength (demonstrated soon into the plot) is Rothstein's exploration of the evolution of a conspiracy that holds its roots in the shared political and business frustrations and associations of two different cultures. This is further advanced by the political changes experienced by President Tennyson, who enters the office with ideals and perceptions quickly changed and challenged by circumstances beyond her experience. 

From changing political dynamics and Congressional hostility that evolves from successful conspiracy operations which redirect President Tennyson's approach to love triangles, poisonings, political and social set-ups to a murder that reaches into the conspirators' top circles, The Salvation Project is replete with satisfying twists and turns that lead in unexpected directions. 

It should be cautioned that readers anticipating a linear, simple suspense or thriller piece may find Rothstein's story more complex than they'd anticipated. But that's a bonus for a story that rests on no simple scenarios, whether it be a flawed President's campaign, a conspiracy to change the course of U.S. political processes, murderous associations, or an unexpected romance that evolves from abused trust. 

Be forewarned: there's a lot of juicy action to digest here...and just when it seems like a tidy ending will evolve, yet another unexpected twist emerges. 

Readers seeking thought-provoking political intrigue that operates on both domestic and international soils will relish the approach of The Salvation Project, which embraces elections, murder, and conspiracy at the highest levels of office and the heart. 

The Salvation Project
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A Boomer's Tale 
Darryl Nyznyk 
Cross Dove Publishing 
978-1-7335856-0-6         $18.99
Ordering Links:  and 

Jack Darrow is a lawyer in his 50s who is experiencing a mid-life crisis—the realization that he's not really done much with and in his life. A Boomer's Tale documents the results of a camping trip made in an effort to regain this life purpose, but diverts from any anticipated tale of self-realization by injecting a time travel element into the plot as Jack is transported to a world in which he is a hero some thirty years younger, living his ideals. 

Or, are they? 

It turns out that Jack's transformative experience is his introduction to new revelations about not only his ideals and dreams, but his real life purpose. This only comes clear as he lives out his alternate persona in the style he'd envisioned and aimed for in his former life. 

Speaking of which...what is happening to the former Jack? The door on that world appears closed; but can it open again? 

By couching the story of a baby boomer's mid-life crisis with a psychologically and spiritually transformative event, Darryl Nyznyk crafts an account that will appeal to different audiences on many levels. 

Obviously, there's the strong story of a life confronted and changed; but within that scenario is the powerful examination of the different roles of a hero, and forms that heroism might take. These offer unexpected glimpses into how individuals impact other lives. 

As events and chapters at first swing between the 'other time and place' and the life-threatening real world Jack is more familiar with, readers are treated to a vivid series of battles, difficult confrontations, the impacts of knowledge and revenge, and Jack's evolving struggle to help both his lord and damsels in distress. 

What could have been limited to a fantasy adventure becomes a reflective study in growth and mindful living as Jack learns some hard lessons from his newly heroic lifestyle. 

Part fantasy, part middle-age crisis story, and filled with gripping encounters and clashes with self and the world, A Boomer's Tale offers a thought-provokingly different kind of adventure/self-improvement story. It will keep readers engrossed and thinking long after the tale's epic conclusion, which links not only disparate worlds, but newly healed hearts. 

A Boomer's Tale
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Comet Fox
Peter Quinones
Independently Published
978-1796993929            $6.95 Paper/$9.00 Kindle 

Banja de Banja is bisexual, divorced, determined to lead an outrageously vivid life. She's also the heroine of Comet Fox, which romps through not only her life but the artistic circles in which she moves. 

Banja hangs out with 'glorious' people and exhibits a flair and sassy persona that matches her name, sexuality, and approach to life. Readers receive a spirited blend of wild 'curveball' sexual encounters, double natures, and 'switched on' life meanings. These operate hand in hand with a fluid blend of art world exposés and underlying ironic observation to create the feel of a memoir. However, this fictional story is married to the passion of a quirky character whose escapades embrace numerous flings, encounters, potential partners, and ribald one-nighters. 

In many ways, Banja is the quintessential story of a woman on the edge who loses many things while exploring her sexuality and relationships in and to life. Her antics are smoking hot and peppered with challenging descriptors that will send even college-educated literature readers to the dictionary for some vocabulary-expanding definitions. This means that those anticipating a sexy leisure read may be in for more of a challenge than they'd anticipated. 

This is just a note about its delivery and intellectual, literary foundations, however, because Comet Fox isn't the kind of read that should be regulated to the mundane or to predictability, whether covering Baja's journey or the language employed to describe it. 

Readers who enjoy being challenged either in their perceptions of the art world or a divorcee's sexuality or in an emotionally riveting account of entwined passions, relationships, and choices will find Comet Fox just the ticket. It's a lively romp through both business and art worlds, examining the life of a woman determined to take back her strengths and empower herself. The tale thus walks a thin line between a cultural commentary, an artistic examination, and a lively probe of a woman's sexual and emotional awakening. 

Whether it be politics, business, entry into middle age, or a woman newly capable of blocking anything from the past (even her son) that doesn't contribute to her revised purposes and future, Comet Fox serves up a warm dish of intellectual, social, and psychological growth. 

This delivers a lively, vivid read that's hard to put down, powered by a protagonist who doesn't just walk through her life, but rocks its foundations. 

Comet Fox
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East of Lincoln
Harlin Hailey
Independently Published

9781090683281              $15.95 Paper 

Richard Jenkins was once a successful California real estate agent. Now, he's not. He was raised middle-class, with many opportunities; but now he is 'invisible' and finds himself on the wrong end of history, faced with unprecedented decisions that hold moral implications and consequences. What happens when old routines no longer work? Chaos. 

East of Lincoln follows the first-person reflections of a man who finds himself middle-aged and at a crossroads in his life. As he tells his story of the end of the world as he's known it, murder, redemption, and his experiences with the Artist and Bales, his tone and presentation capture a gritty series of revelations and truths that open eyes and minds. 

How can Richard rebuild his life and thrive in a world turned upside down? His hard-hitting grasp of events is captured in succinct, involving descriptions that keep readers immersed and sympathetic: "What do you do when your whole world has been rocked? When your life is stuck between a skateboard and the end of times? Do you start picking up dog shit for eight bucks an hour? Fuck no. You start drinking." 

It's the end of the reign of the white man, and Richard and his growing group stand in the crosshairs of revolution as they contemplate their next moves and uncertain futures. 

In many ways, East of Lincoln captures a microcosm of current events. Richard is 'everyman' in modern-day America, and his experiences mirror many lives as he observes these downward spirals and their impact not only on his world, but American communities in general: "I knew what was happening. I’d seen it before in my line of work. The new owners were going to bleed us out. One by one. We’d either move by choice, at their request, with some form of payment (bribe), or we’d stay and fight. But whatever route we chose, the outcome would be the same. We would be gone from our apartments. It was just a matter of time. And like I said earlier, when you lose your apartment, you lose your community. That’s because you can never afford to buy back in. It was happening all up and down the California coast. I’d never seen anything like it. The gentrification—this great consolidation of wealth. Wall Street speculators and international money were gobbling up older buildings at record prices and knocking them down and erecting smaller, luxury housing units, literally transforming cities overnight. The poor were thrown out like street dogs, left to fend for themselves. From San Francisco to San Diego, the great displacement was underway." 

How can such changes be fought? Richard finds a way, and his choices and their consequences makes for thoroughly engrossing reading as readers find themselves caught in a vortex of social change and one man's challenges. 

East of Lincoln embraces themes of survival, art, magic, friendship, change, and moral and ethical dilemmas. The added dose of critical inspection of Southern California culture ("Los Angeles doesn’t care who you are, what you are, or how long you’ve lived here. She will always sell you out to the highest bidder. That’s just the way it is.") makes it a particularly powerful, hard-hitting recommendation for California fiction readers. 

East of Lincoln
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Edge of Perception
Steve Bellinger
Wordwooze Publishing
978-1688041028                           $12.99
eBook: B07WF9WDY1               $ 3.99

Ron Lewis isn't psychic; but if he could have predicted the future, he might not have been blindsided so badly. His work as a physicist and engineer is firmly rooted in science, but his innate attraction to the strange, weird, and inexplicable both in human interactions and brushes with childhood and adult monsters seem to counter everything he believes in. 

What if an old family curse and these supernatural encounters are more real than anything else? 

Ron's journey really begins after a tragedy strikes, even though he's spent his childhood supporting 'normalcy' and rejecting the input of his experiences: "It’s amazing how you can find normalcy even in the most bizarre situations. By the time I started high school, I had figured out how to create a reasonable life while dealing with the threat of the Tokoloshe." 

It's when he turns from rejecting the truths of his senses to embracing them in an attempt to communicate with the dead, rather than rejecting this possibility, that all hell breaks loose. 

One of the many special flavors of Edge of Perception lies in this transition process from one stalwart concept of reality to the acceptance of ongoing clues which indicate that more lies beyond the realm of perception. 

As Ron embarks on a discovery process that leads to accepting concepts he's long rejected, readers are carried into a scientist's world shaken by seemingly impossible evidence of something that may not be verifiable in the traditional sense.

Insanity and extrasensory perceptions fall neatly into the realm of uncharted territory for Ron, but as he probes both during the course of an unpredictable relationship, he grows in ways that allow him to accept and deal with these forces. This leads him to a revised perception of life, death, and what lies beyond. 

Even more thought-provoking is Ron's use of science to enter a spirit world where none have ventured before. Is he cheating, with a ghost? Or is his unearthly relationship the side effect of a machine that can make the dead appear, challenging his perspectives about those he loves? 

Ron's venture into the spirit world will attract fans of paranormal fiction who enjoy accounts of scientific and psychological investigations. Edge of Perception skirts the edges of logic and the supernatural, creating a compelling story that opens the door to other worlds and a particularly dangerous force that Ron unwittingly unleashes onto his friend Mike and the world. 

With a compelling, action-packed story following Ron from childhood night terrors to adult confrontations with the nature of reality and evil, Edge of Perception offers a powerful narrative that sifts through the demons in Ron's life to conclude with an unexpected bang. 

Edge of Perception
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The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter
Glenn Seerup
Kindle Direct Publishing
9781099883309             $15.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook  

Hayden Carlisle is in his early 20s when he begins a job as a designer at The Plush Porcupine, a small Chicago toy design studio—but he's not the only new arrival to enter the shop and possibly change its downward trajectory. 

Maxine Porter provides a major impetus for positive change, bringing with her an intense energy that nobody can quite define. Does she have genuine precognition and business savvy, or is something else lending to her ability to pull The Plush Porcupine—and Hayden—into new realms of possibility and success? 

Hayden initially enters this job with a few ambitions (" hard enough to be a respected employee for at least one year, be personable enough that my coworkers talk to me, and force myself to find at least one good quality about everybody so I don’t dread each moment of being there."). 

As he experiences investor meetings that pick apart and question new product designs and dutifully chronicles a fateful turning point for the company in a journal replete with astute observations and mystery, perspectives shift between Hayden, Walter, and others who find themselves on a remarkable journey indeed. 

These changing viewpoints are clearly documented in chapters which move between Hayden's journal reflections, third-person views of company owner Walter Keeler's first success (and possibly his first failure, as well), and the experiences of fellow designers Marty and Scott. A fine blend of mystery and business insight keeps readers engaged not just in business processes, but in personality clashes. 

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter is a revealing, absorbing, engrossing story of budding relationships in the business and social design world. It ventures into unexpected territory by juxtaposing the personalities, dreams, and extraordinary abilities of more than just the powerful figurehead, Maxine Porter. The result is a fine survey of social awkwardness, business success, and the pressures upon owners and workers alike to re-brand a small company, among other topics. 

To bill The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter a 'business novel', however, would be to limit its audience too strictly. There's a great deal of interplay between characters of various ages and experience levels, creating a psychological depth and insight rare in business novels which, tend to focus on company advancement processes alone: "It always amazes me how different people think. Scott seems to take a single grand idea, mold it, tweak it, and build on it until he gets to a final concept, whereas I like to throw a bunch of random thoughts down and analyze them to pick which attributes to draw from each. Scott seemed confused when I put out my multiple sketches. He rightfully thinks of me as a young kid and not the successful creative designer that he is. He obviously thought that this process would go like the other things, where he would come up with the idea and I would develop the details."

This novel deserves a wider audience. 

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter will delight those seeking a multifaceted story of personal, professional, and business changes. It follows a young man's new entry into the workforce and his path to success, which is sparked by a relatively short encounter with a very extraordinary, visionary individual who changes his life. 

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter comes full circle in examining definitions of that success, and will prove engaging, surprising, and hard to put down as its characters and company dilemmas both come to life. 

The Illuminating Occurrence of Maxine Porter
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Layla's Love
Ava Bleu
Persuasion Media, LLC
ASIN: B07WHR8WPM          $2.99

Layla's Love adds the second book to the Ivyhurst romance series and follows the changing life of the busy owner of Ohio pizzeria Layla’s Gourmet Pizza Shop, whose focus is on business success, not love—until customer Raymond walks in the door. 

Readers receive an excellent recap of Layla's fiery personality, her role as a successful, hard-working African American businesswoman in the revitalized, gentrified small town of New Ivyhurst, and a lifestyle that has little room for love. 

As her friends and co-workers encourage Layla Smith to take chance and make room in her life for love, she discovers that the biggest barrier to romance isn't finding the right guy or opportunity, but herself: "I think that is what finally broke through my resistance and fear and doubt. Luke was right. It wasn’t life or death, it was just a date. Just a date with a man I wouldn’t mind getting busy with." 

Layla's Love eschews the usual complexity of too many romance novels in favor of a simple format, a short presentation (which especially lends to its recommendation for busy readers who want a quick, uplifting story), and an approach that builds the image of a successful African-American community and powerful female protagonist. 

The resolute intentions of a woman who must overcome her greatest challenge to opening her heart (her own psyche; not her business's demands) makes for a hard-hitting yet fun read that delivers its revelations with clear impact and meaning unsaddled by overly complicated undercurrents: "I was a business owner and an independent woman. I could chase down a man if I darn well wanted to." 

As humor, politics, social involvements, and media attention permeate the story, Layla is blindsided by more than just the possibilities of love. 

It's surprising to note the many social inspections that are wound into this relatively simple story, but Ava Bleu's approach simply excels in creating succinct, hard-hitting, yet direct descriptions and experiences that enhance her story without adding too many overly-complex subplots. 

The result is a romance that's also a reflection of community issues and social change. Layla's Love is a read that juxtaposes levity and serious issues but, in only 25K words, creates a novella steeped in heartbreak, social inspection, and new possibilities to brighten a romance reader's day and heart. 

Layla's Love
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The Librarian at the End of the World
Mark Miller
Montag Press
978-1-940233-64-2         $16.95 

The Librarian at the End of the World presents a satirical romp across America, and is a recommended pick for readers who want to take the iconic Jack Kerouac classic On the Road one step further into absurdity. (Indeed, The Librarian at the End of the World combines the travelogue of Kerouac and the absurdity of Ken Kesey.)

The journey is undertaken by champion speedbather Ramdas Bingaman and his equally oddball wife Colletta, who turn a projected vacation into a rollicking odyssey of escape and revenge. 

It's difficult to immediately categorize The Librarian at the End of the World because so many elements are present and intersect at the very beginning, all using copious and non-stop levels of ironic observation and spoofs. Everything readers might anticipate from the novel by its title (either the story of a staid librarian, or an apocalyptic piece about survival) is turned on end from its introductory lines, which refute any idea that the story will be either dry or easily anticipated: "If you are going to rise to the top of your field at a young age, as I have, you have to own a closet full of suits because dressing well will balance out your otherwise youthful demeanor. People in my line of work don’t take you seriously unless they suspect you are capable of destroying them, their families, and their legacies. You probably don’t think of librarians in this light, but I assure you it is true. Librarians are fucking fierce. If you must know, I, Ramdas Bingaman, was never properly educated as a librarian, but that has never kept me from knowing all I need to know to help a patron in need." 

Mark Miller cultivates a first-personal observation tone rooted in give-and-take, playing on words and expectations with a deft confidence that leads readers on a journey of anticipation, frustration, revelation, and satisfying surprises throughout. 

The protagonist initially hides in a classroom and builds his reputation by being conservative in his actions, but a league of speedbathers and other circumstances lead him to regain his initiative with grand schemes even involving cheese pilfering ("I slip in the basement, find his refrigerator, and slice off a really thick slab of Lagoon with a View Bleu, though hopefully not enough for it to be missed, unless he already weighed the block of cheese, which I’m sure he has. Do I feel bad? Luring him back to his house with promises of a great fortune in exchange for his special cheese? Not at all. I am stronger, smarter, and more resourceful than my peers and auction competitors. I deserve to be rewarded, and if Ayn Rand were still alive we would have had the hottest sex two rapacious narcissists with delusions of grandeur could have. The universe owes me everything, and I owe it nothing in return. Besides which, if I am going to completely satisfy six Amazonian strap-on fem doms, I am fucking aye right gonna keep all the money. Besides, from what I can tell, I’m not making a dime in residuals."). The Librarian at the End of the World is at once gritty, hilarious, raunchy, ironic, iconic, and as socially challenging as any classic travelogue of the 1960s. 

Embedded within the trappings of wine and cheese events and compulsions to win recognition is a story of an insidious plan that may be either fabricated or real, depending on the protagonist's current state of mind. 

Novel readers looking for a lively romp across America's prized standards and social circles that's married to an iconic, quirky character's search for ", life, death, and the end of the world", will find The Librarian at the End of the World to be social satire at its best, ultimately questioning life's purpose and coming up with a surprising conclusion about the end of everything. 

The Librarian at the End of the World
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On Wings of a Lion
Susan Wakeford Angard
Tudor House
9781733898409              $13.99 Paper/$7.99 Kindle 

Thriller, romance, and historical fiction readers are in for a treat with On Wings of a Lion because Susan Wakeford Angard traverses these genres with an authoritative attention to detail, creating a sweeping drama that promises high-octane action right from its opening lines: "It’s no use!” yelled Hans. “Strike it again!” Anthony Evans shouted, steadying a crowbar wedged against the rear door jam of the barricaded Sohbe Emrooz newspaper building. His helicopter pilot Hans raised an ax high and slammed it into a rear door bolted from the outside, a SAVAK trademark." 

In 1978, an assignment brings Hollywood film director Kathryn Whitney to Iran, a nation on the cusp of revolution, to shoot some lucrative TV commercials at the ruins of Persepolis. A chance meeting with Sir Anthony Evans, a dashing half-British, half-Persian playboy photographer, does not promise romance at first, but he grows on her. 

Also growing is the sense of danger and deadly forces as the two become caught up in something greater than either professional photo shoots or personal attraction, because Iran explodes and drags both individuals into its struggle. 

Kathryn discovers Anthony is actually not what he appears to be, and she must make some difficult choices about her alliances, her friendships, and her life. 

It's important to note that On Wings of a Lion is populated by a diverse range of characters who all have special stakes in Iran's political events. These goals are worth murdering for, they're worthy of betrayal, and they even merit the sacrifice of a nation. 

From the hidden purposes and pursuits of Anthony's cousin Mirdad Ajani to General Houdin's clashes with Anthony and his own mission in this changing world, Susan Wakeford Angard weaves intrigue into her historical novel that incorporates Iranian culture and politics into descriptions of personal pursuits for glory and riches. 

Her juxtaposition of very different characters and their concerns is exquisitely done partially because of the growth process she explores between Kathryn and Anthony, which lead to revelations on many different levels. Anthony has long tried to assume responsibility for everything around him. When his friends are murdered in their homes, can he just fly back to Britain and pretend nothing happened, leaving responsibility and passion behind? 

In the wake of the Iranian revolution and the interactions of secret police and clever adversaries, Kathryn and Anthony become swept up not only in each other, but in circumstances far greater than either their individual or shared pursuits. Mysterious crown jewels, betrayal, threats to love and life—what could be more compelling? 

Perhaps its strikingly realistic feel is derived from Angard's personal familiarity with her subject. On Wings of a Lion is based on her experiences while in Iran, and on incidents related to her by Iranians with whom she met and filmed. 

On Wings of a Lion's ability to capture Iranian culture, politics, and society and place these facets against the backdrop of two very different, strong characters who struggle with themselves and each other places this novel a cut above most historical novels, romances, or thriller stories. 

Readers of these genres will be exceptionally pleased at the story's depth, background, and evocative phrases, which engage and educate readers about Iran's peoples and culture. 

On Wings of a Lion
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Panic River
Elliott Foster
Calumet Editions
978-1-9507-4307-0                $16.99
Publisher Website:

Everything is connected, in life. When human relationships fall apart, these connections may become frayed, but often they are not entirely gone. 

Corey Fischer, a gay man on the cusp of his 40s, stands to lose all connections in his life, from his family, which has disowned him because of his sexuality, to his chosen husband Nick, who has betrayed his trust. His artistic pursuits do not hold the promise they once did, either, and this is one of the reasons Nick, who has been largely supporting them, has grown distant and disappointed. 

In many ways, Panic River is the quintessential story of middle-age revelations and angst; but it also presents an edgy exploration of the impact of an inheritance which changes everything and exposes the darker underside of a much-changed relationship. 

Middle age is a gray area where youthful perceptions and enthusiasm are traded for rude awakenings, powerful realizations about dreams and realities, and both evolving and disintegrating bonds between families, lovers, and life itself. 

Corey perfectly reflects this process as he struggles with family secrets and a huge challenge to everything he's built and believed in, including himself. This draws readers to the edge of the roots of growth and realization as patterns of old arguments from his childhood come to permeate vastly changed connections as an adult. 

A deer hunting trip and incident becomes the pivot point of this process. Readers will be riveted to a story that seems to move towards inevitable disaster, only to pull back and become a saga of transformative possibilities and a new life. 

Like the river, Panic River ebbs and flows as truths are slowly and often reluctantly uncovered and Corey pulls apart the ties that bind until threads are left raw, hanging, and seemingly disrupted forever. One wonders what can be rebuilt from such disaster, but just as new truths emerge, so the phoenix of possibility rises from the ashes of destruction. 

Elliott Foster excels at creating a hard-hitting story that begins softly, with a life on the verge of big changes, and then moves into the protagonist's ability to accept illusion and, finally, reality. This forces him—and readers—to understand not only the pull and power of past influences, but their ability to craft and warp present-day reality. 

Panic River is no cursory romp through challenging circumstances. Foster takes time to build exquisite descriptions that link events to Corey's own physical and psychic vulnerability, as in the emotional grab and challenge of a successful hunt: "He tried looking away, but couldn’t help seeing Nick stab the jagged edge of a large knife into the deer’s protruding rib cage. An audible burst of air gushed from the slit, the final remnant of life held deep within the buck’s chest. Corey gasped a moment later, sucking into his lungs the same air he imagined that the deer had just expelled. And then he held it inside, willing himself not to exhale for as long as he could muster. He finally released one steady stream of exasperation— the air, the tension, the regret. He hadn’t been the one to pull the trigger but felt just as bad as if he had." 

Under Foster's hand, these ties that bind re-form decades later, juxtaposing angst and loss with new promise. 

Everything is connected, in life. 

Novel readers who choose Panic River for its theme of a middle-aged gay man facing his demons and much-changed circumstances will uncover the roots of these connections and will learn how they evolve. They will find Panic River a powerfully evocative, thought-provoking consideration of how life moves on, how freedoms evaporate and re-form, and how one man makes difficult choices that bring him full circle in an unexpected way. 

Panic River
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Paul Martin Midden
Whittmann Blair

Just a year ago, Riley Cotswald was a published, successful, up-and-coming young author with the world at her fingertips. With her first book, all Riley had to do was type and the powerful words flowed. Now she's at an impasse over her new characters Adam and Suzanne, who are also stuck in their relationship and life. It all feels too close to home. 

And with that, everything changes. 

Riley is a work of art in many ways, not the least of which is Paul Martin Midden's ability to get under the skin of surface connections and patterns to probe not just Riley's characters and writing, but how it mirrors her own relationship with her estranged husband Cameron and the undercurrents of her life. 

Serious Riley has long viewed her perpetually happy husband as a mystery, because his reactions to life are the opposite of hers: "What she was thirsting for the most was elusive. In her real life, she was the one who sat around wanting to speak the obvious truth to Cameron, who seemed eternally tone deaf about anything but his natural inclination toward happiness. It came so easy to him; it drove her crazy. Riley never quite grasped the root or the nature of his sunny disposition. Why was he so impossibly happy? He smiled a lot; he was seldom nonplussed; he put a good spin on everything. On those rare occasions when he absolutely could not avoid his emotions, as when he was watching a tear jerker or heard about the death of a friend or a national tragedy, he would shed a tear or two, but very briefly and, if it lasted more than a couple seconds, apologetically. Riley had never seen anything like it. And then he would return to his preternaturally happy default state." 

He drove her crazy; but she's writing this story to help herself, despite the elusive nature of clarity and resolution. And so Riley persists in self-examination through creative writing, trying to kill two birds with one stone by meeting the demands of her publisher and her therapist. 

During this effort, Riley considers the goal of peace of mind and the barriers of her own expectations from life, facing an increasingly stormy relationship with Cameron, who finds his own frustrated reactions to his estranged wife to be both alien and threatening. 

As Riley's alter ego in the fictional Suzanne juxtaposes with her own life choices and confusion, readers receive a story that moves back and forth between Riley, Cameron, Adam, and Suzanne to reveal moments of enlightenment, shock and grief, fresh starts with new opportunities, and backward slides alike. 

Midden excels at crafting a story that carefully juxtaposes fantasy and reality. As Jennifer's friendship with Riley takes a new turn and youthful introvert Edward enters Riley's life, the complexity she seeks from her fictional story becomes part of her own life. 

At each step of Riley's blossoming and struggles, readers are drawn not just to her story, but the mirror of her writing, presented in italics for easy comprehension. Midden's ability to both separate and connect these two characters and their lives makes for an engrossing approach that keeps readers on their toes. 

Tragedy and grief coalesce in this story, but Riley seeks to find the courage to confront the discourse in her own life. Readers drawn into this unusual story of self-exploration, growth, and revelation will find the psychology astute and thought-provoking and the focus on a nearly-divorced couple's individual and relationship struggles to be well done and compelling. 

Riley is highly recommended for readers who like their stories multifaceted and psychologically compelling. This audience will find it filled with unexpected revelations and an approach that makes it hard to put down right up to its unexpected concluding lessons about failure, success, and life's meaning and choices. 

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The Trap
Andrea Steele
Mouse Hole Press
HC = $19.95    SC = $14.95    EB = $ 5.95
For more information and to order books see 

The Trap opens with a brief prologue set in Tübingen, Germany in 1920, where a child confides a family secret to a friend. Then fast forward to the same setting in 1995, when sociopath Egan challenges his parents' morals and lives. Now move to the same year, different place, in Harford, Connecticut. Alana Eastwood finds herself on a flight to Germany after she loses her job, when her grandfather, Kirk, suddenly collapses. 

An unopened letter she finds in a trunk poses a mystery she can't ignore, but holds few clues for resolving what sounds like an important dilemma. Alana has had indications from an early age that she is clairvoyant, and this talent, combined with her relationship with her grandfather and her connections to and appreciation for Germany, are what power her drive to uncover a close-held truth that's been generations in the keeping. 

Alana has rarely spoken of her dreams, but the events in Germany force her to confront her psychic ability and even broach the most important one of all: one that called into question the validity of her grandfather's identity in her life. And before she can, there is no longer an option to clarify this mystery—or any other. 

Alana’s psychic ability does not overpower the storyline; it believably melds in with the investigation to unravel the mystery and deaths that occur fifty years apart. 

The Trap winds German and American history into a satisfyingly complex novel of intrigue and discovery as Alana probes her own abilities, family heritage, and the secret that threatens her identity and life. 

Between Albert and Helga's dilemma in handling a dangerous son who might be better off dead to Alana's search for answers from the past that threaten her future, The Trap weaves a gripping story powered not by a singular dilemma or mystery, but by the interconnected lives of various characters past and present. 

German history and culture are injected into and reflected into the plot's setting and characters, creating a strong backdrop for the investigation and action that offers many insights into German affairs, from the lingering aftermath of World War II to the evolution of a deadly killer and his parents' struggles as they face him and a dangerous choice. 

As Alana investigates her mysterious letter and discovers it holds a deadly secret, she also finds out that those who might solve her mystery are politically dangerous in their own right: "Alana interjected, “I have an old letter that we wanted to show him. It concerns something that happened during World War II. Professor Altmeyer said Herr Schmidt had the expertise help us.” “Expertise? The guy is a Nazi! He has a whole group of Nazis writing propaganda outta some big freakin’ mansion in the country. They all think it’s a secret, but everyone knows what they are up to.” Stefan spoke with anxiety in his voice. “All history majors have to take Schmidt’s classes because nobody else teaches them. But it’s appalling that we have to even talk to him.” 

From neo-Nazis and terrorism's rise to an Israeli agent who tails Alana and the evolving importance of Alana's own ability, which may be the key to saving lives, Andrea Steele crafts an important survey of various mysteries and traps that deepen and become more complex and impossible for the characters to handle as the story line evolves. 

Steele excels in exploring logical progressions of power, political purpose, and individual dilemma, arriving at intersections where all three facets coalesce in surprising ways. As the trap tightens, the story becomes one of a compelling treasure hunt. 

The result is a powerful saga of Hitler's ability to reach into modern times through a family mystery that becomes a world-changing paradigm, documenting a young woman's awakening ability to change everything through her insights and actions. 

Historical fiction tempered with mystery doesn't get much better than this! 

The Trap
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The Umbrella Men
Keith Carter
Neem Tree Press
978-1-911107-05-7 (hardback)             $20.99
978-1-911107-10-1 (paperback)           $14.99
978-1-911107-11-8 (e-book)                 $  9.99 

The Umbrella Men is witty business novel writing at its best and chronicles the dilemmas faced by Peter Mount, the Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company who encounters angst and conflict when the actions of Oregon environmentalists backfire and ripple through global financial and political communities. The book gives an excellent and entertaining insight into the global financial crisis as it unfolds. 

Peter holds a very astute opinion of the realities of the banking environment in which he operates: "The new characters on the scene at Royal Bank of Scotland seemed perfectly comfortable with their own sort of legal interpretation, without troubling to get it blessed by someone actually qualified in the law. They had all the qualifications they needed right there on the team – Richard Videur was Emeritus Professor of Client Maltreatment, Judd had an MA in Borrower Intimidation and Slight was studying at the Open University for a degree in Advanced Commercial Bullying." 

He juggles conflicting concerns in both business and personal circles, and understands that the green tech revolution still depends on the basic rare-earth materials his company is involved in extracting, and all the environmental contradictions that involves. 

As personal and corporate greed in himself and those around him are exposed, Peter finds he's in a whirlwind of change he can't always manipulate. As Simple Lies, Complicated Truths, and other influences on permits, expansion goals, and financial dreams come to light, everything changes for all the characters playing on different stages around the world. 

The Umbrella Men is a novel that operates on many different levels, but one of its strengths is an ability to create a variety of characters to capture personal, political, and business dilemmas in their lives. This creates, in effect, a global community that interacts on unexpected levels—and individuals who sometimes unconsciously thwart their own stated ambitions. 

As the story moves around the world (a progression clearly outlined by subject headings that document place and time to avoid confusion), readers will find The Umbrella Men a delightful novel that holds unexpected personal insights as characters who move in their own circles begin to interconnect in unanticipated ways. 

Readers seeking a global corporate adventure story that holds many different angles will find The Umbrella Men satisfyingly multifaceted: a strong story of business savvy, intrigue, and discussions of rare-earth materials and their place in human endeavors. 

The Umbrella Men
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Wedding at Walden Pond
Vivien Mayfair
Bramble House Books
Small Print: 978-1-7332261-7-2           $13.99
ebook: 978-1-7332261-8-9           $  2.99
Large Print : 978-1-7332261-6-5  $17.95

Barnes and Noble 



Apple Store   

Harvest season in Vermont's picturesque small town of Snowdrop Valley brings more changes with it than Fall colors as Mirabelle Martine faces the loss of her beloved bakery and bookstore. One thing she can do to save her business is design a literary harvest-season book festival. Another path is to accept the otherwise-unwelcome attentions of an unknown horror bookstore owner who tells his visiting, meddling mother that they are engaged, in exchange for his help. 

One desperate fib leads to another and Mirabelle discovers that matters of the heart aren't as easy as falling in love and living happily forever after. In between the quest to save her bakery and please her father, there is angst, growth, discovery, and a gray area in which she finds herself pitted against not only business challenges, but romantic conundrums with a stranger as they try to help one another achieve their goals. 

Vivien Mayfair's creation of Snowdrop Valley isn't new, and prior romance readers who choose her latest will be happy to see this quintessential small town return. The backdrop of autumn, one of New England's most famous and pictorial seasons, is very nicely done in this book, as are the touches of Vermont culture and personalities that stem from Mayfair's personal familiarity with and affection for New England. 

Mirabelle and Zeph aren't singular characters in search of love, either: they are also on a quest for uncovering the truths in their own separate life journeys, and this effort on both sides sets Wedding at Walden Pond apart from the usual romance read. Mirabelle and Zeph are contrasting individuals in their own right, and so their different journeys nicely compliment their conjoined fates. 

As a white lie and simple ruse become complex even to the one who conceived them ("Why was Mirabelle playing along? All he wanted was to visit with his mom, then get her back on that plane. Mirabelle’s playing along only meant it would be that much harder to break the news. It’s one thing for Drozah to fib, but for all three of them to carry on a ruse?

Not right. He detected the hope in his mom’s voice, unable to remember hearing her speak with so much enthusiasm since the time he told her he was going into graduate school."), a sense of humor, good clean fun, and a story line steeped in possibility and New England flavors emerges. 

Sweet romance and cozy novel readers interested in a gentle tale of tangled lives, entwined fates, and growing passion will relish the fine feel of small-town America that Mayfair cultivates in one of her best romance stories yet. 

Wedding at Walden Pond
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Reviewer's Choice

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym
Cameron Edelman
Absolute Author Publishing House
978-1-951028-03-9                $9.99 Paper 

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym provides 14 structured games and songs suitable for early childhood gym, summer camps, or outdoors activities. It is a highly recommended guide packed with tips for improving early childhood educational and health goals. 

Cameron Edelman's part-time job teaching sports classes, a dying educational pursuit, evolved to a passion for teaching creative movement to 3 to 6-year-olds: an age group the typical gym approach doesn't tend to reach.  The evolution of these games and songs reflect Edelman's hours of research uncovering activities appropriate for this age group, then modifying them further. 

Under another hand, this could have ended the process, but Edelman did more than gather researched activities. He field-tested them, putting together lesson plans based on these efforts, and "...found out what games and activities were a hit with the children and which ones I probably should not try again. I learned to quickly change things up if a game was not working and how to keep the children engaged..." 

It's this final piece of a process that involved testing, adjusting, or creatively adding to the games he located that makes 28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym a standout in the field of early education. 

Game set-up, equipment, and instructions are accompanied by color diagrams to make the effort crystal clear, while variations on the theme give early childhood gym and outdoors teachers plenty of options for adding to or expanding upon each game. 

As an additional reason for purchase, it should be noted that all proceeds from the sales of 28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym go to Lurie Children's Hospital. 

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym is simply outstanding: an early education reference that should not be missed by any teacher looking to creatively expand the exercise and engagement options of the very young. 

28 Best Games & Songs for Early Childhood Gym
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The 'Armchair' Gambler
Ronald K. Evans
Amazon Digital Services
 B07VHBCF84             $3.99 Kindle 

The ‘Armchair’ Gambler: How You Can Profit From Casinos - And Have Fun - A Systematic Way To Win - Observations From A Former Casino Dealer comes from a professional who offers candid, complete insights on not only how the gambling system works, but how to devise a strategy that, despite the odds, results in more wins through a systematic change in bet selection procedures. 

This is no light coverage intended for the occasional gambler; but an in-depth survey of the gambling industry's methods, house edges, and words of wisdom from Ronald K. Evans' own gambling and extensive research into odds, strategies, and the lessons of volatility and fluctuations in the process. 

The first thing to know about The ‘Armchair’ Gambler is that it focuses on traditional casino table gambling and doesn't include poker or slots. These table games employ various systems that readers will come to better understand as chapters closely examines processes. The book features a new, recommended method requiring not in-depth professional attention, but a regular casino gambling background and interest, attracting gamblers who enjoy making fairly frequent forays to the casino table. 

From a plan to tackle bet selection and seeming randomness to the pros and cons of various competing gambling systems, Evans combines a seasoned hand with well-researched strategy that even casual betters will easily comprehend. 

Tables and charts, data from authoritative sources such as Berkeley University, and clear tips on what to look for when analyzing a casino's system offer not a singular method, but approaches that encourage patrons to customize and define their own winning analyses. 

From deviations from the mean and casino drawdowns to handling losses with an eye to larger wins later, The ‘Armchair’ Gambler clearly outlines its strategy, discusses the pros and cons of various analytical approaches, and is the item of choice for anyone who harbors more than a casual interest in gambling. It's a top pick for anyone who seeks better and deeper understanding of the casino process in order to up their odds of success. 

The 'Armchair' Gambler
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Art for All Ages
Corinne Miller Schaff
Top Reads Publishing
Paperback: 978-1-970107-03-6     $24.99
Ebook: 978-1-970107-10-4            $9.99 

Art for All Ages: Reignite Your Artistic Self holds a promise in its title: that a prior affection and talent for art only needs to be reignited in order to blossom. While readers can learn new art skills here, there are many books on the market that "teach art." Art for All Ages's purpose is to go beyond the mechanics of creating art to fire up the inspiration that promotes it in the first place. This approach places Corinne Miller Schaff's book in a category of its own. 

It's important to note that after providing a self-rating scale and discussions of innate creativity and artistic talent, Corinne Schaff moves to a series of 'recipe' chapters. These provide the basic ingredients to understanding new approaches to watercolors, painting, and special effects such as incorporating 3D results into a piece. 

Each of these 'ingredients' receives a detailed discussion, and each supportive activity for the lesson comes with a color-coded symbol for age-appropriate exercises. This supports the 'all ages' mentioned in the title, providing options which reinforce each lesson and encourage creative exploration at the appropriate age level. 

While some of the essential ingredient discussions may seem basic to adults with a prior background in art, such as a survey of basic color theory, these often lend to more complex facets that non-artists will want to know. In this case, the basic color theory dovetails nicely into a discussion of adding magenta and turquoise creations into a mix. 

Painting tips and guidelines for using particular mediums such as acrylics are presented in sidebars of at-a-glance information, while full color examples leave nothing to wonder. Again: some of this is basic, simple information that may be familiar to artists who set aside their muses some time ago. In this case, consider that Art for All Ages can also serve as a refresher course for aspiring artists with a need for not only self-discovery, but brushing up on the basics. 

There are three separate parts to Art for All Ages: activities, art skills development, and encouraging creative exploration. Each segment receives simple step-by-step coverage, and each presumes no prior knowledge of art or the roots of creative inspiration. 

This psychological component is what truly sets this book apart from others, as readers are encouraged to not only create, but explore their feelings about their intuition and artistic pursuits through fill-in workbook questions ("Painting a landscape is a major accomplishment. How do you feel? What will you do differently next time? Were you able to place color on your canvas without making it totally smooth? Did it have a texture? Could you feel the paint?"). 

Using this book, adults and children of all ages can learn together. It's a special participatory choice for parents who would not just teach kids about art, but join in for a shared, successful experience. And this is the final component that places Art for All Ages in a category of its own: it offers the rare opportunity for adults and children to work side by side as they build skills and explore their creative natures. 

This opportunity for a shared learning experience on equal grounds is rare, indeed, making Art for All Ages especially highly recommended for parents, kids, and any adult seeking supportive manuals not just for art, but for self-discovery and growth experiences that overcome age-related barriers. 

Art for All Ages
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Cohesion Culture
Dr. Troy Hall
öehler Books
$24.95 Hardcover, $16.95 Paper, $7.99 Kindle 

The real challenge facing businesses doesn't lie in attracting great employers, but in retaining them long-term. Cohesion Culture: Proven Principles to Retain Your Top Talent addresses this problem and offers many solutions, creating a blueprint for company leaders whose goal is to "...create workspace environments where all employees have a sense of belonging, feel valued, and make a commitment to organizational success." 

This idea may sound simple and familiar, but statistical evidence shows that most organizations aren't paying enough attention to retention. Over sixty percent of employees in any given occupation are actively seeking another job! 

Cohesion Culture discusses employer performance and responsibility in creating an attractive work environment that leads to job satisfaction on more than one level. 

Six chapters discuss values, effective leadership and its direct connection to transformative principles, how trust is cultivated and maintained in the workplace, and how an organization can adopt the principles outlined in Cohesion Culture to support talent retention. 

Dr. Troy notes that "...building a Cohesion Culture that works with people who want to be part of it requires a lot of relational underpinning." 

Business leaders seeking to be more effective in crafting an environment of empowerment, value, responsibility, and satisfaction will find Cohesion Culture advocates making the kinds of changes that lead to the ultimate goal—talent retention and a stronger competitive force fueled by workers who aren't always casting about for better opportunities because the real opportunities lie in their existing workplace. 

Cohesion Culture
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Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection
Julie Barbera
Inspireu2Action Inc. 

Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection is about freedom and illusion: the illusion of striving to be perfect in God's eye, and the freedom to be gained when this effort is cast aside. It's especially recommended reading for perfectionists who may otherwise spend their lives in pursuit of an ever-elusive goal that actually thwarts happiness, connections to God, and real living. 

When Christian life coach Julie Barbera lost her voice and turned to writing as the "paintbrush of expression," she discovered a renewed commitment to God and faith which forms one of the foundations of Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: "In search of a tool to replace my voice’s paintbrush, I found eyes to see and ears to hear. More aware, I noticed a blunt pencil in the box. I turned to God and asked, “Why is this pencil so dull?” He responded, “That is the pencil I have been using to write on your heart. I have had to press hard to get your attention.” At that moment, I exchanged my paintbrush for a pen. God and I began to write in unison." 

Barbera realized that one result of losing her voice was an enhanced ability to listen to her heart and the messages of God. Her voice returned, but her focus was forever altered. Her journey is recounted in a story that blends memoir with spiritual life purpose messages that will resonate with Christian readers. 

Readers shouldn't expect a linear production, here. Barbera daydreams, reflects on memories, and draws connections between experience and growth-inducing realization, as in this conclusion from her son's award ceremony: "External awards, while gratifying, lead to a temporary sense of accomplishment. Inner strength builds the courage to stand, even when the world says sit down." 

As she tries to fit in with groups and struggles with God's and life's purpose, Barbera narrates her experiences with a marriage between heartfelt emotion with deep insights: "Life had to have a deeper meaning. I would never be satisfied with just fitting in. I was determined to find a purpose. There had to be more. I tried so hard to fit in that I failed to stand out. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to fit in. Maybe I was supposed to stand out. If I wanted to stand out, I needed the courage to step out." 

Some of the most poignant, higher-impact of these realizations are lifted from the text and illustrated with a black and white line drawing of a lighthouse and a shore, emphasizing their importance. 

Readers should be aware that a spiritual overlay is present throughout. This is just one of the enlightening strengths of a Christian read that gently admonishes how to achieve better grace and understanding. Barbera writes with a welcoming hand that allows readers to enter her world with understanding: one which chooses educating over admonishment: "Your views of yourself, the world and others are highly dependent on the lenses that you put on. Glasses of judgment cloud the view. You may need to lay them on the stand and replace them with lenses of grace." 

Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection is about not just perfection, but about achieving a deeper connection with God and life through a process that encourages growth, sharing, risk-taking and transformation over judgment and resisting change. It's a road map for achievement that encourages readers to embrace a personal development process strongly rooted in God's will and the effort of uncovering a personal life purpose. Christian readers will find Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection both inspirational and surprisingly easy to understand. 

Cracked Mirror Clear Reflection: Shatter an Illusion of Perfection
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The Four Trials of Henry Ford
Gregory R. Pich
Open Books

978-1948598248            $19.95 Paper/$9.99 ebook 

The Four Trials of Henry Ford is a highly recommended pick for any collection strong in American, legal, or transportation history, focusing on the litigation process at the turn of the 20th century. In this era, Ford was not a giant company, but a man whose development efforts threatened the existing Seldon patent on the automobile. But this wasn't the only litigation Henry faced in the course of developing his Ford brand. 

The Dodge brothers also brought suit for shareholder oppression after they initially manufactured Ford's mechanical car parts, while Ford sued the Chicago Times for libel. 

These are just a few examples of the litigious history of Ford covered in The Four Trials of Henry Ford, which provides more than just legal insights into the man and his company, but traces the evolution of both as Henry Ford's brand took off. 

Perhaps most fascinating of all are the insights into a process which involved Ford, shareholders, reporters, and publishers in a series of legal battles whose outcomes ultimately shaped the fate of not only Ford, but other companies of his times. 

Even readers not versed or interested in legal processes will find the social, political, economic, and psychological descriptions of these battles to be vivid, exciting, powerful insights: "Henry Ford established his own personal news bureau in Mt. Clemens to provide copy concerning the trial to small town newspapers all over the country. It was an effort to combat the influence of the Tribune with large urban daily newspapers, which tended to identify with the Tribune. Both sides smothered the town with private detectives trying to dig up dirt on potential jurors and witnesses that might be called. Ford agents spread rumors in the community that the Ford Motor Company planned to open a new plant in Macomb County to employ thousands of workers. No stone was left unturned by either side in an effort to obtain an edge in the litigation." 

Gregory R. Piché's wide-ranging examination of these four major trials, their outcomes, and their lasting impact creates a spirited survey that will appeal to a diverse audience of historians, transportation buffs, legal beagles, and general-interest readers. It's thoroughly engrossing reading offering many insights and thought-provoking moments. 

Piché's added inclusion of the biographies of individuals involved in Ford's operations rounds out the book's historical and technical details with lively surveys that read with the descriptive force of fiction: "Sapiro was an intense presence with dark brown eyes and a zealous, passionate demeanor. He presented a compelling story. His father had died in a train/wagon accident when he was young, and because his mother was unable to support him, Sapiro grew up in an orphanage in San Francisco. He was ambitious and smart. He trained early to become a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1908 and later gained a master’s degree in history. Still later, he studied law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1911. While giving his class’s commencement address, he attracted the attention of progressive California Governor Hiram Johnson, who had an interest in agricultural reform." 

While it might initially seem that The Four Trials of Henry Ford is a specialty item, it in fact is a strong recommendation for all kinds of readers, who will find Piché's attention to footnoted, well-researched facts backed by a talent for description. He captures the Ford story in an account that's atmospheric, compelling, and hard to put down. 

The Four Trials of Henry Ford
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Make Love Better
Jan Dworkin, PhD
Belly Song Press
9781733901109             $18.95 Paper, $14.99 Kindle 

Make Love Better: How to Own Your Story, Connect with Your Partner, and Deepen Your Relationship Practice is more than just another addition to the self-help relationship improvement shelf. It comes from a therapist whose decades of work includes cross-cultural and international experiences. This background allows for an unusual blend of approaches. 

Dr. Dworkin's personal story and case studies form the foundation of an examination that focuses on common conflicts stemming from issues of race, gender, and class. These are subjects all too frequently omitted in favor of psychological profiles and background, yet are often key influencers in relationship issues and power dynamics. 

From the trickiness of language nuances in interpersonal communications to practices to calm the nervous system and discussions of how the brain is wired to connect (which can have unexpected consequences, as in Dworkin's relationship, in which "We were entangled, but not necessarily in sync."), Make Love Better isn't about better sexual intimacy alone (as a reader might expect). It delves into the mechanics of making better connections and fostering intimacy on an emotional level. Readers receive a self-help guide that empowers them to rewrite their own life story and objectives. 

From clarifying confusing experiences to techniques for improving new and old relationships alike, addressing common patterns, sources of conflict, and pathways towards resolution, Make Love Better offers a wide-ranging approach to deeper intimacy and relationships. It is highly recommended for those who would do the exercises and embark on a journey that begins with self-examination. 

Make Love Better
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The Way We Work: On the Job in Hollywood
Bruce Ferber, Editor
A Vireo Books/Rare Bird Books
9781644280140             $18.00 Paper/$14.99 Kindle 

Collections strong in Hollywood history and media studies will find The Way We Work: On the Job in Hollywood a powerful addition that surveys the skills, processes, and interactions that comprise a Hollywood creative endeavor. It consists of essays written by successful Hollywood directors, writers, and producers who lend their personal experiences and insights to this collection. 

The organization of this compilation, which opens with 'The Story' and then moves on to consider 'The Icon', 'The Shoot', 'The Picture', and other phases of film production, is just as important as the works themselves. 

Each chapter provides interviews and insights from many angles, from Chris Rock's hard-hitting essay 'It’s a White Industry', which chronicles a young black man's Hollywood encounters and the difference between white privilege and blacks in Hollywood ("I try to help young black guys coming up because those people took chances on me. Eddie didn’t have to put me in Beverly Hills Cop II. Keenen Wayans didn’t have to put me in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Arsenio didn’t have to let me on his show. I’d do the same for a young white guy, but here’s the difference: Someone’s going to help the white guy. Multiple people will. The people whom I’ve tried to help, I’m not sure anybody was going to help them."), to Stu Goldman's 'Recollections from the Other Side', reflecting on his entry into the entertainment industry and his work with Orson Welles.

These are more than autobiographical sketches. Each offers a slice of Hollywood life and insights about the industry, its personalities, and how it operates. 

Aspiring film students who have their eyes set on Hollywood receive many 'how to' titles and not a few autobiographies about Hollywood, but few incorporate the nitty-gritty daily experiences and social and political examinations of The Way We Work: On the Job in Hollywood, which considers the pros and cons of actors and acting, Hollywood film-making processes, and the special challenges involved in Hollywood jobs. 

No media studies collection should be without this revealing guide, which is at once entertaining and educational. 

The Way We Work: On the Job in Hollywood
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Young Adult/Childrens

Bloodborne Awakened
Tracey Laviolette
Mentha Press
Hardcover: 9781937629588
Paper: 9781937629601 

The 'Borne of Blood' saga opens with Bloodborne Awakened in which 16-year-old Jessie Connelly is traumatized after witnessing a vicious attack on her classmate at school. Her parents send her out of town to her grandmother's house for the summer to help her recover, but recovery isn't the focus or end of the story. It's only the beginning. Jessie meets Jacob and faces not just a camping expedition gone awry, but the truth about different creatures and worlds that operate behind the scenes to affect humanity. 

Young adult to adult fantasy and horror readers will find Bloodborne Awakened an intense, gripping story powered not just by a typical story of good and evil, personal destiny, or the presence of other creatures who are hidden from human society, but a refreshingly vivid young personality who observes and captures the challenges in her normal life. 

Jessie's voice, paired with Tracey Laviolette's exquisitely metaphorical, atmospheric descriptions, drive this story from its very first passages: "The clock’s pendulum created such a soothing, yet so eloquently familiar sound— a reminder that time moved on in a eurythmic direction. Just as the gears of the clock continued ticking in constant motion, so did the days of our lives—at least until the end came. The sound was almost poetic—yet, ironically, did life continued after death? Newton’s second law, which described the changes that a force can produce on a body in motion, stated that the time rate of change of the momentum of a body is equal in both magnitude and direction to the force imposed on it. The energy of a body is like the product’s mass and velocity, and the force applied to a body can change the magnitude of the momentum, or its direction, or both. If this applied to my life, then a force would have to be strong enough to change the momentum and direction of my life. At that moment, my thoughts rambled on to what type of power would change my life’s path.  I stared at the clock for a long moment, absorbed by the hypnotic sound, as each of my main muscle groups loosened their tense embrace. Perhaps the idea of me meeting a person or force that was my equal to change my life was a bit whack." 

Jesse holds her secret revelations close because otherwise, those who operate in the normal world (parents, counselors, and professionals) would surely consider her insane. Yet, she pours out her heart and reactions in this powerful production that explores her discoveries about the Bloodborne world and its legacy; her startling role in it (even though she feels powerless at times); and her evolving relationship with Jacob, who is "every girl's dream." 

As dragons and demons are confronted by a band of brave, intrepid, and inexperienced young folk, readers are treated to an epic story seasoned with a dash of comic relief at unexpected junctures of the adventure: "Kyle stood tall, rolled his shoulders, then twirled the staff around and locked it underneath his arm. I must say I had gotten a bit distracted with those muscles, but what was a girl to think anyway when a guy showed up wearing a muscle shirt and green army fatigues?" 

Jessie forms new bonds with her Bloodkin, but discovers that the survival of everything and everyone she loves rests squarely on her shoulders. She's charged with assuming her new role as an Awakened Dragonborne whose very existence creates a paradigm-changing impact on two very different worlds. 

Readers will find themselves on edge as Jessie comes to realize the world isn't as she expected it to be, and that many things she's been taught are wrong. Most of all, Jessie's journey leads her to discover the personal purpose and meaning of her life. She brings other young adults into this realization through adventures that offer as much insights about personal growth processes as they do fast-paced action and confrontations. 

Young adult fantasy readers will welcome Bloodborne Awakened's unique combination of coming-of-age and quest story. Its wound into engrossing descriptions and atmospheric settings designed to keep readers thoroughly engrossed to the satisfying end, which sets the stage for another story without the frustration of the usual cliff-hanger approach to series titles. 

More, please! 

Bloodborne Awakened
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Fight for Wet Springs
Charlie Steel
Condor Publishing Inc.
978-1-931079-24-2         $12.95  and/or 

Fight for Wet Springs appears in a completely revised second edition as a Young Adult Western.  It probes the life of the youthful pistol-carrying Western frontier fighter Kurt West.  From childhood to age eighteen, he fights to protect his ranch, his family and friends—and even his pets, a horse and cat.   

As he does with his other Westerns, the first strength to note is that Charlie Steel excels in describing a sense of place: "Cottonwood leaves drooped silver-green brightness.  Cattle, yellow grass, and rocks spotted the valley where the far side dipped to gray shimmering flatness and then rose up again in an array of pastel colors that extended to the distant purple mountains.  The air was dry, the heat sucking moisture out of everything so that the sky was crystal clear and one could see land and mountains a hundred miles away." 

One can see, hear, taste, and smell the atmosphere of the land and its challenges as the story opens with Priscilla West's confrontation with ranch hands of a powerful land-grabber, Poindexter.  These men threaten her and her young son Kurt, demanding she sell her property, which is Kurt's legacy. 

It should be noted that women are powerful forces in Steel's story, even though it is centered on Kurt and his world.  Priscilla is no diminutive little woman meekly following male leads. She's made plans of her own and is both strong and clever in how she confronts the bullies in their lives: "Well, John," said Priscilla giving her husband a determined glare. "You are selling my half of the herd. I'm calling in your vow that I have fifty percent say-so.  Half the money I get I will salt away; the other half I'll use to buy supplies and to make the changes I drew on this paper.  Here, look at this." 

The idea of women working hard alongside men to support and protect their homesteads and livelihoods is brought home in different ways in a story that revolves around personal strength, survival, and concerns about land and people that evolve from early power struggles in the West. 

Where other Westerns too often give female characters the "short end of the stick," Charlie Steel takes time to build insights about all the family members and neighbors involved in this Western community's operations and challenges. This strengthens a saga that is nicely steeped in social concerns ranging from homestead problem-solving to cross-cultural relationships between Mexican vaqueros and Anglos. 

Outlaws, landowners, and a host of characters coalesce in a powerful saga.  The West’s befriend and hire rejected characters and redeem them.  Jedidiah, an old Mountain Man, becomes once again a powerful and worthy advisory, defending Wet Springs Ranch.   This unusual story documents not just the hardship and angst of fighting to save their ranch against impossible odds, but also celebrates life: "People agreed that it was a great dance, a muy bueno fiesta, a wonderful gathering of friendship and boisterous amusement." 

By cementing these relationships and the atmosphere before delving into town politics and processes, Steel crafts a story that is truly gripping. It will reach beyond the usual Western reader audience and into the hearts and minds of leisure readers who enjoy historical fiction. 

Readers seeking an entertaining read that grabs the heartstrings and doesn't let go, but which incorporates the realistic backdrop of the old West with all its challenges, will relish Charlie Steel's lively novel.  It is an exploration of a community's spirit in an epic fight for freedom. Fight for Wet Springs is definitely a story packed with adventure. 

Fight for Wet Springs
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It's OK to be Different
Sharon Purtill
Dunhill Clare Publishing
Hardcover: 9780073410440         $17.99
Paper: 9780973410457                 $  9.99
Digital (mobi) for Kindle:  9780973410471   $2.99 US
Digital (epub):   9780973410464                  $2.99 US   

It's OK to be Different receives warm, cheerful illustrations by Sujata Saha and will attract young picture book readers with both colorful drawings and a simple survey that maintains that everybody is different, reinforcing the idea, using light rhyme, that uniqueness is a good quality to cultivate. 

People hold different interests and enjoy diverse activities. As Sharon Purtill explores these contrasting styles, interests, and enjoyments, she moves into physical and racial disparities, employing the same tone of acceptance that encourages kids to view these variations as something to relish, in turn. Kids learn to not just identify these differences, but to understand that diversity is a big plus. 

Parents seeking read-alouds that educate kids about diversity and acceptance will find It's OK to be Different holds the perfect lesson of choice. Warm, happy, colorful, and attractive, it delivers its message using a joyful tone that helps kids not only accept, but celebrate their unique attributes, appearances, and talents. 

It's OK to be Different
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Moo the Ghost
Beth Praed
Independently Published
 B00P85PG8S              $0.99 

Moo the Ghost features fun drawings by the author's father, Jack Praed, with a delightful series of full-page, colorful drawings that bring to life the simple story of a haunted house populated by ghosts that practice going "Boo Boo Boo" all day long...all except for one little ghost who can't quite pronounce the letter 'B'. 

Moo is teased by the other ghosts, but just can't correct his linguistic snafu. 

When siblings decide to explore the haunted house, with all its frightening creaks and groans, they aren't frightened by the 'Moo' sounds. They find these curious noises are made by Moo the Ghost—and discover that 'B' is not the only letter that challenges his pronunciation skills. 

However, there's an advantage to not being able to be scary, and Beth Praed does a fine job of showing how a problem can lead to new opportunities in this gentle story of friendship and fun. There's also a second game for children: one involving finding elusive spiders on each spread. Kids who love games involving finding hidden items will appreciate this bonus. 

Moo the Ghost arrives just in time for Halloween, but will provide year-round attraction for young readers interested in the fun tale of a handicap that becomes an unexpected asset. 

Moo the Ghost
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The Proto Project
Bryan R. Johnson
Candy Wrapper Inc.
Ebook- 978-1-940556-06-2           $5.99      
Hardcover- 978-1-940556-07-9     $18.99   
Paperback- 978-1-940556-05-5    $9.99     

The Proto Project: A Sci-Fi Adventure of the Mind is recommended reading for grades 3 and up and tells of young Jason Pascal's entanglement with Proto, his scientist mother's expensive AI invention. The problems don't just stem from Proto's existence, though, but from his disappearance. 

The Proto Project opens with Jason's excitement over a field trip that promises cupcakes and intrigue. In the past, he's considered science and scientists relatively dull; but this time his mother has created something that could save and change the world. Nonetheless, Jason is more excited about the food trucks than her world-changing announcement, until intrigue enters the picture. 

Young readers are treated to a sci-fi story of an AI that opens like a science read, but quickly evolves into a mystery. As Jason's mother is threatened and his group of friends join him to get to the bottom of not just Proto's existence and disappearance but the concurrent vanishing of citizens around them, the fast-paced story moves through science and social issues alike. 

In the course of solving a host of problems and confronting a virtual army of trouble, Jason and Proto come to better understand what it means to make mistakes, learn from them, and evolve into being more human: "Proto glowed a faint blue, which looked even sadder than his happier blue. “I should have been smart enough not to make such an error.” “No,” Jason said. “Search your recordings. I’m sure Mom has told you at least once that you must learn from bad 
stuff that happens. Rise to the challenge. That’s just life, Proto.” “Life? I don’t know what that is,” Proto said. “I’m not a living thing. Do you know what I am, Jason? I am a complete and utter mistake. Please continue the mission 
without me.”

Spiced with a satisfying blend of mystery, science, and social inspection, The Proto Project excels in crafting a fast-paced story of how proactive AIs, savvy children, and adults investigate their rapidly-changing new world with an attention to revealing trade secrets. As they embark on world-changing choices and action, the efforts of one young man who becomes involved in a new formula to enhance humanity's future changes everything. (It should also be noted that the open-ended conclusion satisfyingly ends The Proto Project, but paves the way for more adventures.) 

The Proto Project
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Spooky and the Gargoyle
Teresa Traver
Thousand Acre Wood Books
978-0-578-56697-9                $17.99 print/$7.99 ebook

Spooky and the Gargoyle is a fun picture book Halloween recommendation that excels in lovely, colorful, whimsical drawings by Ariana Dahlenburg. It tells of a fearful little white kitten who is even afraid of her own shadow. And the old Maxwell place that is her new home holds a LOT of them!

Bravery is a real issue for Spooky, but when she summons the courage to touch a big stone gargoyle who guards the house, she is not encouraged by the frozen monster's desire to be left alone. But she keeps coming back anyway, because they share a love of watching the world, and through her small acts of courage, she gets to know the huge, reclusive Eben, who is always 'too busy' to chat. 

As an unlikely friendship forms between the formidable gargoyle and a kitty who is frightened of everything, something changes for Spooky, giving her the courage to not only make a friend, but confront true danger when it threatens her buddy. 

Spooky and the Gargoyle might disappoint young readers looking for a truly spooky ghost-style haunt story, but it will delight youngsters and parents who absorb the underlying messages about courage, friendship, and how to find both when the world seems frightening. 

So, while Spooky and the Gargoyle might seem a Halloween-oriented choice, it actually holds attraction and lessons year-round. It's a top recommendation for parents and caretakers of their own young 'spooky' personalities, who want to provide some basic illustrations of not just what courage is, but how to cultivate it. 

Spooky and the Gargoyle
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Under the Cottonwood Tree
Paul Meyer & Carlos Meyer
North Fourth Publications
9781733773003             $19.99 

Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera is a unique young reader's graphic novel story notable for many exceptional features. 

First is its lovely, full-color illustrations by Margaret Hardy and Jasey Crowl, which go beyond capturing action to imbed a sense of the New Mexican landscape that forms the backdrop for this exciting adventure. 

Unlike too many graphic novels, these drawings are vividly rendered, unique in their composition and appeal, and add a lively and rich visual element to a story that excels in exploring Southwestern mythology, magic, and transformative experiences. 

Elementary to middle grader readers and beyond will also find accessible and intriguing the addition of Spanish words throughout the dialogue, and events which capture the entwined cultural influences that is New Mexico ("Hermano, why don't you ever believe me?"). 

Under Paul Meyer & Carlos Meyer's pen, the story of a young boy's sudden transformation comes to life, powered by sterling visuals by Hardy and Crowl which capture not only their confrontation with an evil force, but daily activities; whether it's the homey act of making fried bean and cheese tacos or facing a battle with giant tree monsters. 

As Cindy, Amadeo, and others traverse not just a strange change but an unfamiliar world, readers are treated to an exceptional graphic novel that began in 1980, when a young Paul Meyer had a dream about a talking calf and older brother Carlos wrote a short story based on the dream and was subsequently printed by the first publishing house to surface from the Chicano movement of the Sixties; Quinto Sol. Their early efforts evolved into this expanded graphic novel. 

Too many graphic novels hold similar-looking illustrations and formula writing. Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera represents something unique in the graphic novel world: an original, unpredictable, beautifully drawn story that stands out from the crowd, will appeal to Latino and multicultural audiences alike, and is steeped in the flavors and culture of New Mexico. 

It's a winner that deserves an award in and of itself and is a standout among graphic novels, no matter what age group is being targeted.

Under the Cottonwood Tree
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9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems
Jeffry Glover
Poems for Pleasure Press
Paper: 9781948854016         $14.99
Hardover: 9781948854009   $22.99
Ebook: 9781948854030        $  4.99 

9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems comes from the winner of a Robert Frost Foundation National Poetry award and combines Jeffry Glover's experience as an author and educator in a collection replete with feisty tales of catitude, fanciful pet troubles, and life lessons. 

Other collections of stories and poetry provide a particular focus on felines and pets. Glover's wide-ranging survey is designed to capture the diverse attractions and challenges of the kitty, using lessons, tales, and stories to deliver insights about cats who are not akin to each other in personality. 

There's a logical progression to the chapters and poems, which move from domestic to wild cats and then to dogs. Each topic receives nine sets of rhyming poems of nine poems each, in keeping with a cat's nine lives. 

Additionally, there's a whimsical air to many of the cat personality descriptions, which delve into the realm of fantasy as they probe kitty possibilities and impossibilities alike, as in the math-oriented rhyming 'Tale of the Perspicacious Cat', who is a surprising math savant: "He could calculate pi,/Count the stars in the sky,/And trees in a wood;/Indeed  understood/Calculus, too,/Which he liked to pursue,/And never grew weary/Of using set theory." 

No cat is left out of this appraisal, from the alley cat ("I’ve seen them feast in garbage cans;/Their tastes are far from fussy./While rodents figure in their plans,/Of these they’re fond--they must be,/And every one they catch for dinner/
Makes people grateful they have been there.") to a consideration of 'Why the Lynx Isn't Famous': "The lynx is not a cat with fame/Due perhaps to its strange name,/And unlike lions with shorter mane,/All reasons fame it can’t obtain." 

The combination of whimsy, feline insights, and varied, rollicking poetic structures will make 9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems appealing not just to young readers absorbing poetry and its relevance for the first time; but to all ages who harbor an affection for rhyme, felines, and fascinating observations of pets and their quirky importance to human lives. 

9 Lively Cat Tales and Other Pet Poems
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Burn Marks: A Strange Time for Letters
Robert D. Rice Jr.
Writer's View Publishing
978-1099163289            $9.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle 

Burn Marks is a literary presentation of five short stories holding many compelling features that make each uniquely attractive gems. Before the reader even embarks on reading these tales, each story's title offers a tantalizing, succinct description of its premise, as in 'Ethel—letters of innocence - Letters to Santa Claus en route to the electric chair' or 'The Jumper - She’s a fighter who won’t take crap from anybody.' 

Lured by these intriguing snippets of description, the reader delves into back stories and tales that take real historical events and turn them upside down for greater reflective consideration and value. 

Take 'The Fort Worth Star', for example, which takes place on November 22, 1963, the day of Kennedy's assassination. The nation is preparing for Thanksgiving, not a tragedy. 

After setting the scene in Texas, Rice diverts to a fun description of a woman settling in for a rest on the couch...a woman whose son happens to be Lee Harvey. 

Rice's propensity for humor is injected into even this serious setting as Marguerite Oswald, along with the rest of the nation, experiences an unprecedented national disaster: "In a house that had seen kinder days, Marguerite Oswald sat with Egypt on her lap. She and the dog struggled to get cozy, on a lumpy couch that would’ve been hauled to the curb, if only she had the wherewithal to replace it. She didn’t, and it had survived the Department of Sanitation men’s collection for another week. It wasn’t terribly uncomfortable. However, if one sat on a specific corner there was a steel coil that was apt to take one’s temperature. Postscript on the couch: too many butts ruin everything." 

As a timeline of events from the shooting captures the political, social, and psychological responses of the times, readers are treated to the story of a mother who knows all to well what her sons are capable of. 

Unlike popular media accounts of historical events, Rice takes on the challenge of describing life-altering moments from the perspectives of individuals who are just a bit outside the normal investigative path. This lends both a literary and reflective atmosphere to the intersection of American history and fiction, drawing readers into bigger pictures and more engrossing insights than might be anticipated by their subjects. 

The five short stories in Burn Marks defy neat categorization, so suffice it to say that readers of good literature who enjoy diverse tales of historical fiction, psychological growth and suspense, and humor will find each story packed with food for thought and delightfully well-crafted characters based on real-world dilemmas: a combination of approaches that results in superior reads easily digested, but not easily forgotten. 

Burn Marks: A Strange Time for Letters
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Off-Ramp to the Void
A.G. Russo
Red Skye Press 

978-0-9907102-4-0                $2.99 Kindle 

Off-Ramp to the Void presents seven short stories of seven women who have been betrayed in different ways, and who struggle with loss of love and anger in manners that emphasize survival and change. 

The title story features a young, resourceful protagonist, Dominique, who has been trained by her parents all her life for an inevitable disaster that separates them. Left on her own, she instigates their carefully-rehearsed survival, only to find that she must call upon further skills to create a new life. 

In the course of absorbing this short story's progression, readers receive a powerful portrait of a savvy girl whose path diverges from a carefully-formed game plan, who must then call upon her own resources to survive. 

In 'It Wasn’t Supposed to Happen This Way', Becky is an average girl. To her, this situation is unacceptable. So, in high school, she devises a plan that will lead her to not live her mother's life of drudgery and lack of self (it would help to become a nurse and marry a doctor, for one thing). 

But as Becky's plans change and she moves into a motherhood and life that she questions ("The truth was, she didn’t care for motherhood. She found her children too needy..."), she discovers that fate has led her full-circle from her childhood ambitions. 

A.G. Russo's short stories excel in twists of plot and conclusions that leave readers not hanging, but thinking. These works stand out for their strong characters: portraits of girls and women who live their lives with purpose and confront adversity with intelligent consideration, and who often face circumstances that force them onto unpredictable paths of change. 

All respond in different ways, which keeps these short stories connected by a common theme of inner strength and female power, each differing in theme and perspective. 

This fine collection is especially recommended for women who want to absorb stories of challenge, change, and creative problem-solving from characters who confront their challenges to lead better, albeit revised lives. 

Off-Ramp to the Void
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Words to Live By
Kenneth J. Kogut, PhD
Outskirts Press
978-1977210128                    $19.95 

Words to Live By (a Not All Inclusive Look at Life in Words) gathers inspirational quotes and arranges them by subject for quick browsing, creating a daily reminder of different insights on life, captured in quick snippets of wisdom by a wide range of thinkers. 

There are numerous quotation and inspirational books on the market already; but what makes Words to Live By special is its arrangement by thought-provoking (different) subject categories ('On Life', 'On Toasts', 'On Personal Care'), and how the chosen quotes often represent plays on words. 

Many are contributions by Dr. Kogut himself ("Life is a piece of cake. It all depends on how you slice it."). Others are nuggets of wisdom by such diverse names as Will Rogers, Groucho Marx, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, and other literary and pop culture figureheads. 

This inclusion and emphasis on names from popular culture also sets Words to Live By apart from other inspirational guides that tend to rest almost solely on the names of literary figures and philosophers. 

There are also numerous citations from 'Anonymous' that are often just as hard-hitting as those penned by well-known personalities: "Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you." 

The last big note on this little collection is that it's not only easy to read and packed with surprises and wisdom, but every saying is linked to approaches to daily life that will leave readers reflecting on their own choices and values. 

If a quick, inspirational read is desired, holding more broad appeal and wisdom than most, then Words to Live By is the item of choice, recommended for being a standout in its field, and quite accessible to literary and everyday audiences alike. 

Words to Live By
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