Fantasy & Sci Fi

Fool's Proof
Eva Sandor
Huszar Books
Paperback: 978-1-7350679-0-2
Ebook: 978-1-7350679-1-9 

Fool's Proof is a whimsical fantasy that will appeal to adult readers who like their adventures couched in a sense of fun and follows the dilemmas of an ex-Royal Fool, Malfred Murd, whose exploits have landed him in unemployment trouble. 

Now that Malfred has lost even his famous Fool's hat, nobody would know that he has a talent for entertainment at all. He's about as low as a Fool can fall: "Keep thinking about machinery, he told himself. About rain. About anything, anything except what the hottest hindmost Hell you’re going to do with no license, no money, no hat and no future." 

And then everything changes. He hatches a plot which revolves around Dame Elsebet de Whellen, a sweet old woman who isn’t quite the ignorant dear she seems to be.  Actually, she leads a country that's facing vast changes, and views Malfred's dubious talents as a possible tool in changing the outcome of her struggling kingdom. 

From a power-hungry boat captain capable of making his own double deals to subterfuge on all sides and the bawdy language and actions that swirl around the characters, Eva Sandor creates a satisfying blend of fun observation and irony that powers action, tempered with a firm descriptive hand that brings this world to life: "A stevedore scrambled among the cubes, measured them with her striped staff and shouted to the sailors aboard the Big Rat to bring that scabflappin’ whip and sling closer, damn it, can’t you see these blisterscratchin’ bales of greasy fluxin’ wool are down here, not flyin’ up on the boom like your sweetheart’s lousy britches. Four at a time, the stevedore fitted the bales into the sling’s pyramid of rope and rode with them, directing the sailors to winch them inboard and lower them down hatches into the Big Rat’s hold." 

The rhythm of this sense of place and Malfred's changing role in it makes for a fast-paced, revealing tale as characters barrel towards special interests and Fred navigates the uncertain waters been royalty and poverty. 

The result is a lively account of villains, plots, tricky politics and uncertain associations that keeps its plot replete with satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns. 

Fantasy readers who like stories of nobility, irony, and confrontation over change will find Fred a likeable character who stumbles into and out of some grave dilemmas, changing not only his life, but those around him. Those who appreciate humor and satirical inspection are in for a treat! 

Fool's Proof

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It Came FromThe Stories and Novels Behind Classic Horror, Fantasy And Science Fiction Films
Jim Nemeth and Bob Madison
Midnight Marquee Press
978-1644300916                    $30.00

It Came FromThe Stories and Novels Behind Classic Horror, Fantasy And Science Fiction Films is written by two critics who offer close inspection of classic horror and sci-fi films and the books that inspired them. It considers the methods, translations, links, and success and failures of the ability of film to either reflect or supersede its literary  origins. 

Is the book always really better than the movie? Or are there cases where the translation process results in something greater than the original inspiration? What differentiates a good adaptation from a poor one or a mediocre representation from something truly great? 

Readers who have an interest in both literature and film receive a powerful survey of both that considers the connections and methods that differ between them. 

Many classics are considered, from the iconic Wizard of Oz to the rise of Flash Gordon-style works. The critical inspections are nicely done, offering much food for thought about the presentation and effects of films as they move from their origins (which may be books or comics) to screen. 

From key differences in plot, structure, and focus to how each story is brought to life, readers receive a critic's eye that reveals production challenges and interpretation issues alike. 

Subjects range from how screenplays borrow elements from books to special challenges in working with animation and sets. 

Readers receive close inspection of all the elements of translating written word to screen, and will find It Came From an essential key to understanding how the film version evolved and the background choices that were made in their interpretation and presentation. 

The result is an outstanding survey that not only connects literary with screen inspiration and approaches, but offers readers a foundation for assessing and contrasting different horror and sci-fi cinematic approaches. 

It Came From is excellent, highly recommended reading that pairs many black and white film images with astute, specific analysis that ultimately pinpoints why and how a film is effective, connected to its literary origins, or produced differing versions (as in Dracula) that reinterpret the original intentions of the authors. 

No film collection should be without this classic inspection. 

It Came FromThe Stories and Novels Behind Classic Horror, Fantasy And Science Fiction Films

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The One Singularity
RD Palmer
RD Palmer, Publisher
Paperback: 978-1-7328491-4-3    $14.99
Ebook: 978-1-7328491-3-6           $  4.99 

It's the 21st century, and Dr. George Adams has given up everything in life to create an artificial intelligence, The One, in The One Singularity. This intelligence will finally, once and for all, solve all of mankind's problems...war, famine, hate. Of course, Nirvana comes with a price. Like the classic computer takeover story Colossus, it's one that mankind is ill prepared to pay. 

Multiple viewpoints are employed to trace this AI's development, from the Amish to the military, historians, politicians, and scientists. From action set in Palo Alto, California, where a bot attack and experiments conducted by the Palo Alto Connectome Project take place, to the split special interests in AI development by different forces, RD Palmer crafts an absorbing, gripping story that follows more than the rise of a powerful intelligence, but the influences on its development and use. 

This places The One Singularity in a category of its own as it surveys the political, ethical, moral, and psychological influences of mankind's ability to craft a superpower that perhaps will oversee its demise. The contrasts between those who support its specific use to those who shun its creation are satisfyingly presented, involving readers in a story that keeps concepts of 'the enemy' mercurial and thought-provoking. 

From questions of what it means to be human and the progeny of a new form of being who 'loves' George and Rebecca, his creators, to contrasts between Amish and English perceptions of the world, the juxtapositions of differing ideals are very nicely presented: “Why is it so difficult for the English to understand what we’ve always known? Knowledge is the power of the mind, and wisdom is the power of the soul. For if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. Instead of wisdom, though, the Outsiders sought knowledge, just like in the beginning with Adam and Eve.” His mind raced to a Bible passage from Jeremiah. It was as if he saw a vision. He recalled the ominous words: The destroyer shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape." 

As The One Singularity unfolds, far more depth and philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and political inspection is provided than most other high-tech stories about supercomputer takeovers. 

The result is a powerful consideration of purpose and intent, soul and spirituality, and science which weaves an unpredictably multifaceted story that is simply riveting. The changing surprises and perspectives make The One Singularity hard to put down. 

The One Singularity

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Chandra K. Clarke
Fractal Moose Press
9781777217419             Paperback: $10.99/ebook: $3.99 

Would-be writer Ian is stuck in a small town with a load of student debt, a writing dream that's going nowhere, and ongoing house repairs and problems that add burdens to his dead-end life. 

The last thing he expected was to encounter a dragon that shows up in his bedroom one night and fails to breathe fire, but peppers conversation with literary quotes. The dragon offers him adventure and a way out of his dull and demanding life...if Ian is brave enough to accept the challenge and journey to the land of Connectome. 

Dragons aren't the only fantasy that becomes part of this strange new world. There are talking bears and hilarious situations that lend comic relief even in the face of their threat: "How would you feel if I shredded your cute widdle friend here?”Simian just smiled. “As you like it,” he said and waited. Crunch. “ARGH! He bit me! Leggo! Leggo!” It took two bears to pry Hutch off the first bear’s ankle. He hobbled back to Simian. “That,” he seethed, “wasn’t very nice.” One of the other bears sighed. “He ain’t gonna talk, Boss. Can’t we just off ’im?”  

As Ian's writing proves to be a way of navigating this foreign land, readers become immersed in a fun fantasy romp that follows Ian's process of becoming inspired. As he discovers his writing prowess may be the key to not just surviving but thriving, his self-imposed barriers are unlocked and a powerful creative force is unleashed. But is it enough to win the battle? 

Chandra K. Clarke crafts a whimsical, fun blend of intrigue and personal discovery that will delight fantasy readers looking for less weighty reading than most in the genre. The process of Ian's self-growth and evolving powers make for many unexpected moments, pointed observations, and a story filled with satisfyingly ironic twists and turns. 

Fantasy readers who enjoy satisfying tales of new and old lives that meld and clash will find Pundragon a delight. Its ability to create unexpected scenarios from life-changing, extraordinary experiences gives it an atmosphere that makes it stand out in the fantasy genre. 


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Warrior of the Stars
Elle Lewis
Black Rose Writing
ISBN:      TBA        Price: TBA 

Warrior of the Stars is the last book in the Glass Star Trilogy and nicely completes the blend of romance, supernatural intrigue, and adventure created in its predecessors. It's recommended reading for prior fans who have waited for this conclusion with baited breath, following the Earthly and cosmic journey of Sloan in her final incarnation and battle with evil. 

Previous books depicted Sloan as being caught in the middle of an intergalactic war, facing a dangerous adversary and an uncertain romance that each tests her special abilities and choices. 

Warrior of the Stars continues this saga, opening with a deadly struggle between Sloan, enemy Darrow, and the powerful icy inner wolf, the deity Genesis. Although she awakens from this nightmare beside James, she is never far from its gripping reality, continuing to struggle with the certainty that her dreams are actually warnings from Genesis. 

It's unusual to receive a fantasy story that includes talk of chakras and new age concepts melded to an intrinsic cosmic battle, but that's just one of the strengths Elle Lewis cultivates in her story. It's a mixed sense of influences, powers, and confrontations that stem not from a singular source, but a blend of confluences both earthly and intergalactic. 

As Sloan hones her skills, love, and strength for a final confrontation, readers are swept into her world of Warriors—one which, she is just beginning to realize, embraces the truths and lies of adversaries and those who would effect change: "It is nothing," Aleo snapped. "A fantastical doctrine belonging to a doomed people. One that has no bearing on why we are here." "It has everything to do with why we are here," I said. "You told me I wasn't chosen. That Genesis was given by random selection. But that was a lie. Everything you have told me has either been a lie or an omission."  

Sloan's powers rival those of the strongest Warriors in the Universe, especially since she is now one with the Genesis Energy. But even these may not be enough to bring her into the life she is meant to lead—one of love and freedom. 

Elle Lewis's world-changing saga is best imbibed by prior fans of the Glass Star series, who will find this final adventure replete with action, powerful characters, and blossoming powers. Lewis devotes time to not just building but redefining Sloan's psyche and mission as she crosses universes and battles warrior and personal interests alike. 

The first-person perspective and descriptions of battles and struggles make for a gripping story filled with action and personal experiences, adding a "you are there" feel to events: "I became a wild thing, hacking at the blazing whip around my torso. The tendrils broke, producing a thunderous growl from The Four. I raced towards Jude. My entire body halted as multiple whips laced around my wrists and ankles. The Four lifted their arms, swinging me against the wall. The first hit was against my back and shoulders. I thrashed, my chest tight with panic. They pulled me forward and then slammed me against the wall again. The side of my face smashed into the clear brick, dazing me. Stars blossomed at the corners of my eyes and I dropped my sword. The third time, the back of my head took the full impact. My skull broke with a sickening crack." 

Fans of the prior series books are in for a real treat as Sloan exposes wrongs, solidifies her place in the universe, and comes full circle to identify what is important to her world. The action, characterization, and multifaceted challenges create a compelling read that's hard to put down. 

Warrior of the Stars

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Biography & Autobiography

The Boy Refugee
Khawaja Azimuddin, MD
Austin Macauley Publishers
Hardback: 9781645361206          $19.09
Paperback: 9781645361190         $10.95

The Boy Refugee: A Memoir from a Long-Forgotten War follows the life and evolution of a young boy who escapes a war-torn Bangladesh internment camp as a civilian prisoner of war to make his way back to his native Pakistan. It is a gripping, absorbing read for anyone interested in the experiences, impact, and aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. 

Dr. Khawaja Azimuddin's childhood experiences as a refugee and prisoner of war come alive in discussions which stem from his notes about camp life, written at the time and preserved until they could achieve book form today. 

By having a memoir that comes from notes written at the time rather than the limitations of memory decades later, these circumstances, politics, encounters, and lessons hold an immediacy and authenticity that recollection alone could not have matched. 

Readers will gain much history and insight about the conflict. Its political origins as well as its personal impact on civilian lives are nicely documented so that they need not have a prior background in or familiarity with the region's history and politics to understand the events: "The violent Operation Searchlight unleashed a reign of terror that lasted two months and resulted in looting and the maiming and slaughter of the Bengali population. From Rajshahi to Chittagong, from Mymensingh to Barisal, and from Sylhet to Jessore, East Pakistan was burning. Pakistani soldiers raided and pillaged villages and towns to forcibly restore government control. Women were raped and children were orphaned...With the situation rapidly deteriorating, my father decided to move ourfamily to safety, and in April 1971, we left East Pakistan and flew over to West Pakistan." 

It's the personal insights about these social and political reports, which often reached the world from the pens of outsiders, that make The Boy Refugee a standout in the literature surrounding events of this time period. The story nicely captures the feelings of those who lived through it: "Pappa resented listening to the BBC and Mark Tully. “He is always portraying us and our army like we are criminals.” “Is it really possible that our army killed all these innocent people?” Ammi asked one day. “Of course! They did.” There was repugnance in Papa’s voice, “But not to the extent that has been reported. This is all a propaganda. The figures Mujibur Rahman is giving are preposterous; they are exaggerating it ten times.” “I can understand if they fired on looters, hooligans, or terrorists, but if they killed any innocent civilians; that is unacceptable.” Ammi sounded angry for the first time, “Why did our Army go that far?” “They were trying to prevent the breakup of our country,” Pappa said as he prepared to sleep in our corner of the barrack room, “Frankly, I also wanted our country to remain united but when the entire Bengali nation wanted to go their own way, they should have been granted independence. Sadly, our army went to the extreme trying to impose their will upon the Bengalis.” 

By including not only his own experiences but the adult discussions, perceptions, and concerns that swirled around him at the time, The Boy Refugee proves educational and enlightening on many levels. 

This examination of a civilian family's experiences as prisoners of war should be considered a 'must' for anyone who would understand the evolving nature of conflict and its impact on the social structure of Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

The Boy Refugee's ability to capture conversations, perceptions, and changing experiences on all sides injects understanding and awareness into the history of this conflict as the boy grows to a man and begins to understand the layers of ethnic and social conflict affecting his homeland. 

The Boy Refugee

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Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife
Elizabeth C. Haynes
Warren Publishing, Inc.
978-1735302331            $14.95 

Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife is an autobiographical collection of personal stories of true grit, survival tactics, and the process of establishing boundaries, independence, and individuality. It comes from a woman who faced abuse at an early age and confronted many choices that stemmed from it. She reaches middle age hauling the baggage of trauma, poor decisions, and evolving chronic illness. 

Life seems to be one obstacle after another, and yet something special happens when midlife is reached. Elizabeth C. Haynes finds herself reassessing her values, goals, and life experiences for the lessons they hold not for validating her past, but justifying her future intentions and actions. 

This process offers a learning experience not just for Haynes, but for those who read about her approach to life in general and midlife in particular. 

From cutting ties with toxic people to creating a new perspective on life, Haynes reveals the mechanics of a process which both challenges and invigorates her: "Doing these sorts of things helps me feel like I have the upper hand on the inside. Like I am working to take back control of my feelings and my world, even if it’s done slowly and step-by-step. I think this alone can help us take some power back and claim our own positivity, our own emotional health. There is strength in making a plan, and nobody can take this away from us; it lies within ourselves." 

While autobiography lies at the heart of these explorations, so does an assessment of revised strategies at midlife. This will particularly interest self-help readers who look to change their own self-assessments about how to better live the remaining years of life. 

Embedded in these experiences are strategies readers can follow to success. For example: Haynes has been a life-long insomniac. Her simple strategy of turning her clock around also changes her perception of night, sleep, and frustration: "I had two goals in mind when I turned that clock around. The first was to eliminate math (okay, I joke, let’s start over). The first was to eliminate anxiety about time by eliminating the thing that measures time, and the second was to improve my ability to get back to sleep by creating a scenario where I could lie to myself about what time it actually was. This strategy works pretty well because when it’s dark, unless you’re tracking the path of the constellations like a sailor, dark is dark is dark. So it’s pretty much impossible to know what time it is if you just look casually out the window at the space between you and the backyard fence. The only clues to time in the nighttime space are when the last light of the sun holds the twilight, or when the first rays of morning just barely tint the sky. And neither of these moments are my problem times." 

Her long road to rediscovering joy in life will delight readers who look for blends of life experience, uplifting new takes on positivity, and clues on how to recapture that burst of energy and excitement that drives the days with meaning. 

Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife is more than one woman's struggle to reconcile her life. It's a blueprint for how to revamp and revise perspective and objective for maximum results, and should be on the reading list of any self-help reader facing middle age. 

Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife

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Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli: Too Many Damn Rainbows
Darwin Porter & Danforth Prince
Blood Moon Productions
9781936003693             $39.95 

At first glance, Too Many Damn Rainbows would seem an entertainment guide to the careers of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli (which it also is), but actually, the book is so much more. It's a survey of their evolving relationship, of the rigors of mother-daughter acts in show business, and a gossip exposé tell-all in keeping with other Blood Moon productions that ladles previously unknown (or underpublicized)  revelations with a wealth of black and white photos. 

Fans of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli will appreciate that the extensive interviews with both friends and those who criticize them range from personal connections to professionals and peers who worked with them in the entertainment business. 

While the primary focus is on Judy Garland, the insights on their relationship, the psychology of Minnelli's journey in her famous mother's footsteps, and the fierce blend of competition and love that drove their relationship and dual successful careers create an in-depth survey that will especially delight those who like their gossip served hot. 

Many of the interviews are as passionate as the authors are about their subject. Here for the first time is a complete overview of Judy's troubled, scandal-soaked marriages to five men, three of whom were gay.  Husbands were not her only problem: Her beaux were memorable and varied, many of them show-biz stars and in some cases, political lions in their own right. They included John F. Kennedy, bandleader Artie Shaw, avant-garde filmmaker Orson Welles, billionaire Prince Aly Khan, matinee idol Tyrone Power, Yul ("The King and I") Brynner, and James Mason, her co-star in A Star Is Born.  Also prominent (and notorious since she was underaged at the time) was her teenaged dalliance with the much older actor, Spencer Tracy. 

Because so much information is included, it would have been too easy for Too Many Damn Rainbows to have become weighty and overloaded. The information is complimented (and the weighty feel of over 700 pages is countered) by the book's inviting structure and its obvious admiration of Judy Garland as the greatest entertainer in show-biz history. Sidebars of information, photos on nearly every page, and an attention to lively, controversial, appealing details makes this read a delight. 

Whether it's the lovers who got away or the reams of insights and anecdotes associated with Judy's bruising Opera House, Las Vegas, and European Tours, prior fans of either Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli are in for a real treat with Too Many Damn Rainbows. The only prerequisite to enjoyment is some basic familiarity with or interest in either or both women.​ 

Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli: Too Many Damn Rainbows

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Somewhere in Persia
Dward Lee Greenbird
Surreal Primitive
9781734654417             $14.99 

Somewhere in Persia: Memoirs of a War Correspondent is the author's father’s story of his experiences as a war correspondent, based in Iran during World War II. It covers a secret mission in which they anticipated a battle that never came to pass, capturing the moments of this waiting game through army correspondence and the articles that Corporal Sam Greenbird published in the United States while stationed in Iran.  

It is illustrated with black and white photos he took while in the army, includes handwritten letters and v-mails, and adds newspaper articles that he published about his military experiences. 

Sam was a Jewish soldier whose Middle East assignment changed him in many ways. In collecting the extent of his impressions and experiences in a wide range of formats, son Dward Lee Greenbird does an outstanding job of capturing all the social, cultural, military, and psychological nuances of his father's war years. 

As the war came to an end and Sam returned to civilian life, this, too, is explored as he contemplates giving up the writing which drove him through the war, to take up carpentry and start a family business. 

From personal experiences with the U.S.O. to experiencing the "humanity and heat" of urban areas, and the unexpected side benefits of basic training on how to act in foreign lands, Sam's experiences come to life in an unusual manner reflective of the combined force of not just his words, but the various mediums in which they appeared. 

Readers seeking a more wide-ranging, engrossing survey of the World War II experience from a war correspondent's pen should choose Somewhere in Persia, a lively and thought-provoking "you are there" survey of life in the military during war. 

Somewhere in Persia

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Texas Off-road Racing: A Father-Son Journey to a Side-by-Side Championship
Mike Kowis 
Lecture PRO Publishing
978-1732863026            $19.99
Author website: 
Ordering Link:

Texas Off-road Racing: A Father-Son Journey to a Side-by-Side Championship may sound like just a racing story, but it's also a love story between man and machine, as well as a survey of evolving family relationships where the father shares his passion for winning. As such, it offers a flavor likely to reach beyond the racing world audience and into the hearts of readers who enjoy accounts of shared sports passion. 

As father Mike Kowis brings his son along for a vigorous ride into the world of off-road racing, readers are treated to a "you are there" feel that captures the excitement and challenges of going for championship status in the sport. 

Readers who enjoy visual embellishments will especially appreciate the attention to detail provided by color photos and illustrations throughout. These capture everything from a mud-encrusted 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo, which practically buried the vehicle, to the happiness experienced by winning another hard-fought XC race. 

The moment-by-moment descriptions are particularly well done and bring readers right into the passenger seat of experience: "As the race went on, I started seeing a disabled UTV here or there, especially in the pasture areas. Then I reached a corner near the back half of the course where I saw an upside down UTV just past the large tree. A few track officials were already on the scene to cautiously wave me around the downed vehicle until they could safely roll the SxS back onto four wheels. Not long after that, I saw another one sitting on its side next to a sharp corner, and then a second one upside down at a different location. Every time I came upon one of these “upside down turtles,” it made me straighten up and get hyper-focused on the course ahead. Just remember, rubber side down!" 

Between its enthusiastic tone, its riveting competition successes and snafus, and the added value provided by a father and son's side-by-side championship bid in the off-road world, even non-racing readers are promised a thoroughly engrossing story that is the next best thing to being in the driver's seat. 

Texas Off-road Racing is highly recommended for racing fans, in particular, who would imbibe of the off-road atmosphere and experience through the eyes and heart of one who used the sport to strengthen the relationship with his son. 

Texas Off-road Racing: A Father-Son Journey to a Side-by-Side Championship

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Veil of Silence
Sharon Shea Bossard
Shea Publications

Veil of Silence is an Irish memoir that moves from the 1950s to the late 1980s, following the success of Sharon Shea Bossard's two prior books about Chicago Irish genealogy and roots. This story explores her experiences growing up in an Irish family where "I knew little of our family background except that they lived terribly sad lives. What I did learn at a very young age from arguments, accusations, rumors, and whispers was that to be Irish meant to be defensive and secretive. Heartbreak was a stone’s throw away. My mother Helen Healy Shea’s only advice to me was, “never marry an Irishman.” She believed that if I did, my lot would be my own making, and I deserved all the misery I’d find in it." 

Unlike most memoirs of ethnicity or cultural interactions, Veil of Silence holds a specific purpose in telling its story—to break a pattern of silence and suffering and the tendency to pass this secrecy to future generations: "Growing up, I’d witnessed my mother lose herself in the euphoria of alcohol in order to catch a break from her own daily paranoid delusions that grew worse over time. Her solitary journey dumped feelings of powerlessness and helplessness onto her vulnerable children. And we stayed silent, terrified that if we let the veil of silence drop, we’d no longer be cared for, loved, accepted." This purpose is well served in a story that juxtaposes family history with emotional examination. 

Chapters reveal cultural connections to Ireland, giving readers a sense of daily life, home atmosphere, and the underlying influences on choices and perspectives that permeated Bossard's home. This encourages readers to consider the kinds of small events and reactions that translate to lasting legacies. This focus creates a spirited story that follows home, school, and community life with equal fervor and revelations, whether it be nuns who attempt to dampen a child's spirit or a brother's sudden disappearance. 

Too many memoirs are designed to interest primarily the writer and their family. Veil of Silence reaches into and beyond the Irish community with a story that illustrates the importance of communication and growth. 

Veil of Silence

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Mystery & Thrillers

Joseph Lewis
Black Rose Writing
978-1-68433-572-5         $20.95 

Fifteen-year-old brothers George Tokay, Brian Evans, and Brett McGovern thought they were going on a hunting trip on the Navajo Reservation. They didn't anticipate that they would turn out to be the prey and would be stalked by strangers determined to kill them, and that the decisions they make could lead to a different outcome. 

Brian is no stranger to violence. His twin brother died in a stranger's arms and his mother shot his father, then herself. He alone survived to be given a home by Jeremy, who took in five other boys. 

Now his life is set to change, once more threatened by violence. This time, he's determined to not only survive, but help his brothers escape their mysterious adversary. 

Strangely, the serial killer and a missing boy in the Navajo Nation threaten more than their family structure or reservation life. These events leave a question in Brian's heart about survivor guilt and whether he is ruining his adopted family by being a member of it. These questions reverberate in a mystery that challenges Brian's values, life, and experiences in an unexpected way. He feels they are at war as he and his brothers search for safety and answers, violence hot on their trail. 

Joseph Lewis does an excellent job of crafting and entwining the politics and process of confronting reservation violence, and the efforts of a group of boys determined to find answers about their conflicted lives and disparate backgrounds. He paints a realistic, involving portrait of reservation life and the FBI's involvement in shootouts and confrontations that threaten to change not only lives, but ways of life. 

This satisfying cat-and-mouse game challenges Brian and his brothers on many levels, from Brian's relationships and adopted family to the level of trust he puts in others. When the truth about his closest friendship comes to light, everything changes in an unexpected way that neatly ties up loose ends and keeps the story line realistic, compelling, and emotionally charged. 

To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. Its social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and a struggle to survive on many levels. 

These elements make Betrayed particularly highly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity in a story of violence and evolution. 


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The Blind Pig Murders
Frank L. Gertcher
Wind Grass Hill Books
Hardcover: 978-0-9835754-6-7     $29.95 

Set in Chicago during the Prohibition era in late 1920s America, The Blind Pig Murders captures the milieu of Chicago's culture and society as it explores a detective's probe into 'blind pig murders' set in illegal speakeasies in Chicago's underworld. 

The story's format revolves around the diary of narrator Caroline Case, whose PI expertise leads to her probe the frequent murders fostered by illegal booze trading. 

As in her prior River Rat Murders mystery, Caroline works with Hannibal Jones again, pairing her sleuth skills with his special abilities in a relationship which pits the dynamic duo against some of the most dangerous elements of speakeasy society. 

As she and Hannibal investigate the monetary motives for murder, a dangerous 'black widow', Widow Nuardi, places Caroline in the crosshairs of her attention as her prey when Caroline moves ever closer to a dangerous truth. 

Once again, Frank L. Gertcher crafts an absorbing mystery. It exposes the culture and society of Chicago from decades ago while continuing to expand the personality, investigative skills, and perspectives of Caroline and her sidekick. 

Chapters excel in building satisfying tension, both over the mystery and Chicago's atmosphere and the evolving relationship between Caroline and Hannibal. The jazz clubs, booze, and confrontations that are portrayed during Caroline's probe of the murders are wonderfully presented because Gertcher takes the time to build atmosphere and thoroughly connects it to Chicago history. 

Perhaps part of the reason Chicago's neighborhoods come alive in such a realistic manner is Gertcher's own travels through the city and his attention to studying architectural drawings, including the Spencer (now the Chicago Hilton) Hotel's decor, parties, and guests of the 1920s. This lends a personal familiarity with and authenticity to the story that brings its backdrop to life. 

The Blind Pig Murders is highly recommended reading for mystery fans that hold a special affection for Chicago and American history. This audience will thoroughly appreciate the genuineness and action blend that make The Blind Pig Murders a top attraction for American history and mystery readers alike. 

The Blind Pig Murders

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The Bones of Saint Pierre
Steven Knapp
Can't Put It Down Books
978-0-999-4623-3-1   $9.99 Paperback, $4.99 e-book
Ordering link: 

The Bones of Saint Pierre is about art preservation, forgeries and stolen paintings, and Nazi involvements that take place on the cusp of World War II. It opens with Mason Wright's encounter with former beau Collette, who asks for his help in a risky plan to save French art from the threat of a Nazi invasion. 

The story takes a museum worker who could have led a safe, quiet life working in his museum in New York and transports him to a world of danger as Mason makes a decision to become involved based not just on Collette's entreaty and past connection, but moral questions: "The only thing needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." 

Mason thus becomes part of a bigger picture of war, fugitives, and art underworld efforts as he finds himself at odds not just with the Germans, but black marketers, as well. The action takes place pre-invasion, providing a satisfying focus on many of the encounters, influences, and prewar threats experienced by savvy individuals on both sides, who saw war coming and held special interests in either preserving or profiting from classic art pieces. 

From hidden maps and priests with guns to treks through Paris' underground catacombs and Collette's involvement in an increasingly deadly series of encounters, Steven Knapp builds a powerful saga that takes a spirited, involving approach to outlining the dilemma of European art preservation during World War II. 

The added mystery and tension are wonderfully written, engaging readers who may have held little prior interest in World War II, but who choose the story for its elements of intrigue and mystery. 

The story also evolves Mason's connections with Collette, Anna, and others as he desperately searches for answers that preserve art and sanity alike. 

Add the effort Mason makes to resolve these dilemmas and leave Europe before all hell breaks loose for a thoroughly engrossing, fast-paced, well-developed read which is hard to put down. 

The Bones of Saint Pierre

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Catch Handle
Alison O’Mara
Independently Published
979-8669499372            $11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle 

Horse stories and cozy mysteries usually aren't paired genres, but Catch Handle demonstrates that both can come alive to reach these normally-different audiences. 

New veterinarian Vivian Anderson is busy working at her aunt's Arabian horse ranch as she searches for a job in her vet profession. The last thing she expected to stumble into is a mystery. 

When a murder challenges her perceptions of those closest to her in this horse world, suddenly Vivian adds a third job to the mix—that of uncovering the truth and protecting those she loves as well as her career goals. 

Readers who love horses and read many stories about their nature will recognize that Alison O'Mara well knows her subject, capturing the allure and attraction of the horse world with descriptions that embrace and explore that milieu: "Nothing surpasses the beauty of an Arabian horse in motion. As Vivian removed the colt’s halter and stepped away, he spun and galloped across the pasture. The early morning light flickered through his mane and tail in his dash toward freedom. Disaster threatened as he raced headlong toward the fence, apparently oblivious of any barrier. In a sudden flurry of long legs and flying dirt, he turned just in time. Wheeling around, he looked back at Vivian accusingly." 

In this world, animals aren't an adjunct, but are an integral part of the action and setting: "How about you meet me after you’ve finished here?” Vivian suggested. She would have liked to have Abby with her, but they could not just drop everything and leave the animals unattended amid the growing pandemonium. Colin had been talking to another Detective, but he overheard the last part of this exchange." 

O'Mara's attention to detail creates a solid, unified approach to animal and human interests alike as Vivian finds herself out of her turf and struggling to reconcile her interests in justice and helping animals. 

Vivian interacts with the community, family and friends, and those investigating the mystery, and readers become involved in not just problem-solving, but the heartbeat of a horse-centric world. 

As options and perps narrow, Vivian finds herself in danger and faces a scenario she'd never imagined would come alive, either in romance or in the horse world. 

Cemented by strong characters, a sense of place and community, and a love of animals and mystery alike, Catch Handle is a cozy mystery highly recommended for readers who like their mysteries surprising, their protagonist all too human and vulnerable, and their stories multifaceted and engaging. 

Catch Handle

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Charity Cases
Jane Shoup
Independently Published
978-1-7351648-2-3                $9.99 

Charity Cases is set in 1888 and tells of attorney Cecil Lawrence's curious involvement with physician Charity and the dilemma of her former patient, a woman now unjustly assigned to an insane asylum. Cecil pairs up with oddball PI Tom Kassel to investigate his latest case, but as Tom uncovers many surprising connections and dangers, the two discover that their case keeps becoming more complex. 

As Tom confronts hospital routines, legal obstacles, and well-hidden secrets that depend on the woman's incarceration to hold together, he discovers that murder and reasonable doubt aren't enough to build the case he's beginning to form. 

Jane Shoup builds excellent intrigue through evolving interpersonal relationships that keep the main characters on their toes and growing. 

As a beat cop becomes a detective and cultivates a special form of savvy, doctor Charity is challenged to tap the moxie and spunk she had cultivated before a miscarriage knocked her down. A host of characters also examine their own lives and futures: "You wanted it and you sacrificed for it. How many people have you helped? How many lives have you saved? If you choose to walk away tomorrow, all it will mean is that you are leaving one meaningful chapter behind for a different one.” 

As surprising truths about loss and life emerge from Tom's investigation, everyone is changed by discovery, revelation, and new perceptions. 

Charity Cases offers an intriguing story of characters that move from revenge and depression to more active roles in their lives. Each rebounds in a different manner, each facing different and new challenges during the process. 

The pairing of a mystery and PI investigation with broader choices and consequences that change many of the characters creates a story that is highly recommended reading for mystery, PI, and psychological fiction readers alike. 

More than a standard work of intrigue, Charity Cases uses excellent tension and interpersonal connections and choices to explore how characters evolve and solve life challenges. Its series of intriguing, engrossing twists and turns will delight readers who look for the unexpected in both the mystery and character responses. 

Charity Cases

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Child of Sorrow
Melinda Clayton
Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC
Paperback: 978-1950750320               $12.99
Hardcover: 978-1950750184               $17.99
Ebook: $3.99

Although Child of Sorrow is the third book in the Tennessee Delta Series, it is designed to stand alone as a fine mystery that revolves around a teenager suspected of murder. Attorney Brian Stone encounters foster child Johnathan Thomas Woods quite by accident, providing an opening line that grips from the start: "Had my client not tried to kill me that damp April morning, I may have never met Johnathan Thomas Woods." 

Stone faces an angry boy. However, he quickly comes to feel that this is not the countenance of a murderer, but a teenager who is innocent...and who offers his lawn mowing money to hire Stone as his defense attorney. 

Struck by the boy's mixed sense of hopelessness and courage, Brian accepts his unusual client and case and embarks on a mission to counter the seemingly irrefutable evidence against his young charge. In the process, he stumbles on a greater mystery that defies his legal team's efforts. 

Child of Sorrow is narrated from two perspectives: that of Brian and angry teen Johnathan. The contrast between these two very different voices incorporates perspectives that differ due to age, life experience, and approaches to adversity. It's also influenced by the charge of a murder he could have committed:"What got into me, Henry wanted to know. I got busted, is what got into me. Caught in a lie. I’d figured I probably would, sooner or later, but I’d hoped I’d have time to come up with a good story before it happened. Good enough to be believed, anyway, but it’s not easy to make up a story to explain why a kid might skip school to buy a switchblade on the very same day his foster mother gets murdered. The obvious answer was because he wanted to hurt someone, maybe even kill someone. And I did want to, but I also didn’t...I could be mouthy, for sure—that was all I had—but I wasn’t violent unless I wasn’t given any other choice." 

Melinda Clayton does an exceptional job of contrasting these two personas as the mystery plays out. Each character harbors a resilience, strength, and determination to face life, albeit in different ways. Each is involved in the case from a very different angle and with dissimilar life experiences. And both hold a vested interest in the outcome beyond the determination of innocence or guilt. 

Everything is stacked against them. But they might have a chance, as John's youth and inexperience gives Brian an edge in delivering news with shock value for maximum effect. A lifetime of trauma has created many trigger points. Can Brian call up the one response that leads John to reveal a truth that can save him? 

Child of Sorrow will appeal to readers of child welfare stories with its strong advocacy message; to readers of court procedurals (who will find Clayton's descriptions of the criminal justice system's prisons and proceedings to be specific and involving); and to anyone who appreciates a solidly engrossing story about justice, redemption, and recovery, presented on many levels. 

Child of Sorrow

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Dangerous Crossing
R. Douglas Clark
Speaking Volumes
978-1-64540-174-2         $15.95 Paper/$6.99 Kindle 

Journalist Eddie Maez is used to tough investigations, and has won acclaim for his efforts in the past. But his probe into what appears to be a simple blackmail case drags him into a treacherously unfamiliar underworld in Dangerous Crossing. 

Readers of murder mysteries and intrigue will find R. Douglas Clark does an outstanding job of pairing the frontier atmosphere of south Texas border country with the politics, policing, and illegal activities of an underworld that has a firm grip on this region. 

Maez is used to uncovering facts, not confronting perps. But in this case, poor people fall into the only income-generating routes they can afford, and the shadowy realm between good and bad people and decisions makes it difficult to define the two in black and white terms. 

Whether it's a poor young mother's choice to enter a dangerous world of sex trafficking or dangerously close connections between love and death, Maez finds himself too often confronting ambiguous scenarios in which there is no clear definition of right and wrong. The overriding danger of his investigations, however, is frighteningly obvious, and leads him into ever-darker lives and choices. 

Seeking companionship through an online dating service, Maez meets ambitious young bookkeeper Raelynn Weeks. As his relationship with her becomes more personal and more dangerous, his fallback plans become complicated. Can he trust anyone? 

Clark's attention to detail, whether it's building relationships or probing the associations that lead people down dark paths, is very nicely done. The characters, their motivations, and their logical decision-making skills are clear and realistic, lending a powerful atmosphere to the overall intrigue and evolving dangers. 

From Raelynn's struggle to escape Brownsville and her past to decisions to either hide or expose different involvements and influences, Dangerous Crossing excels in juxtaposing hair-trigger action with surprisingly deep psychological inspection that's often missing from suspense thrillers. 

The result is a full-flavored, multifaceted read that takes no predictable path towards its outcome, which will engage and engross readers with its surprising conclusion of Maez's investigation and Raelynn's choices. 

Dangerous Crossing

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Shira Shiloah, MD
Hardback: 978-1-7351930-2-1           Price: 26.99
Paperback: 978-1-7351930-0-7         Price: 15.99
Audiobook: 978-1-7351930-3-8         Price: TBA
Ebook: 978-1-7351930-1-4                Price: 7.99 

Emergence is a medical thriller story centered on anesthesiologist Dr. Roxanne Roth, who is recovering from lost love even as she steadily moves towards a relationship with a fellow doctor. 

The backdrop of romance is a precursor to the mystery that swirls around a noted neurosurgeon who seems to be racking up too many deaths during his practice. Despite her recognition of danger, Roxanne finds herself working alongside him when another of his patients succumbs on the operating table. This event draws her into an increasingly dangerous situation drawing on both her medical expertise and problem-solving abilities. 

It's unusual to find a thriller where the killer is a known entity with the ability to hide behind his profession; the justice-seeker a fellow physician who must confront him on personal and professional levels while protecting herself from his dangerous intentions. 

Dr. Shiloah's own background as an anesthesiologist leads to the plot's realistic, compelling atmosphere that blends a serial killer's dangerous modus operandi with a romance story in an especially intriguing, unusual manner. 

Descriptions of surgical procedures are precise, as are the inspection of the killer's processes, logic, and actions. As Roxanne faces both a murderer and the ups and downs of a new relationship, the story evolves in a satisfyingly unpredictable manner that leads her straight into danger on more than one level. 

Dr. Shiloah's realistic, gripping thriller is highly recommended reading for fans of Robin Cook and similar styles, which look for strong female protagonists who pursue career, romance, and criminals with equally strong ability. It's a page-turner that is nicely described and hard to put down as Roxanne faces loss, revenge, redemption, and confusing matters of the heart. 


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Falling Onto Cotton
Matthew E. Wheeler
M.D.R. Publishing
Paperback: 978-1-7349138-0-4    $15.99
Ebook:  978-1-7349138-1-1          $  7.49 

Falling Onto Cotton is a literary crime thriller and a coming-of-age story. Combining these facets into one book might seem like a stretch, but Matthew E. Wheeler adds another pleasing facet with chapter headings that come from popular songs, and an opening line that grabs attention from the start: " "I’m dying.” Chance thought it was the start of a joke." 

Charles "Chance" McQueen always thought his uncle would 'live forever', but stage four lung cancer brings the man to the end of his life and Chance to the beginning of another stage in his own. It's then that he inherits the legacy of being a Milwaukee crime lord and head of the family, along with fatherless 19-year-old Winnie, who is lost and wandering in his life. He finds his hands full as he tackles loss and love simultaneously. 

As he offers Winnie words of advice that resonate with his own life situation ("Winnie, sometimes people don’t know what they want or what they need, but they definitely know when they aren’t getting it.”), Chance not only falls into several new roles at once, but hones objectives that propel him into love, danger, and purpose. 

Matthew E. Wheeler creates a protagonist who is always tapping his own strengths even as he doubts them. Music is not only embedded in chapter headings, but forms a steady stream of background atmosphere that both illuminates Chance's actions and introduces him to people with kind hearts and open minds. 

As Winne's guide, Chance finds himself unexpectedly forming a solid new direction and perspectives in his life. But his path isn't always one of positive solutions as he descends into drinking and finds that some of the death and angst in his life originates from his own responses and choices. These lead into danger as he learns the truth about his uncle's death and the people around him who were involved in betrayal and murder. 

It's notable that Matthew E. Wheeler's freewheeling character is human and vulnerable, whether it be in love, making right and wrong decisions, or how he handles the challenges in his life. 

From a lover who may be secretly destroying his inheritance to finding his role and place in a criminal empire that he newly heads, Chance's evolution is riveting and hard to put down. 

Readers of crime stories involving the mob are in for a special treat with a story that probes a young man's ability to not just adjust to new roles, but accept his place and complicity in an exhausting set of tests that alcohol can't resolve. 

Falling Onto Cotton mixes many facets, but does so with a bartender's attention to the perfect drink of action, surprise, evolution, and revised life connections. It's highly recommended reading for crime story fans who like their tales both literary and thought-provoking. 

Falling Onto Cotton

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FUR: Zeke Adams Series, Book 2
Ward Parker
Pandamoon Publishing 
ASIN: B08CQ249GF             $5.99
Ordering links:
Publisher's website: Pandamoon Publishing 

What begins as a teen prank of ringing doorbells and running away turns deadly as one is shot and killed by a homeowner who, it appears, is getting away with murder. When the murderer is then found dead, suspicion falls upon the dead teen's father. The task of proving him innocent falls to Zeke Adams, former sleazy tabloid journalist and landlord. 

Zeke is in no position to undertake a defense, but finds himself in this position when he vows to save his friend, the father of the dead teen, only to find himself embroiled in the underworld of Florida, including conspiracies, accusations, alligators, militants, and assassins. Who knew Florida could sport such a variety of threats? 

As Zeke struggles with a temper issue that thwarts some of his interactions, the atmosphere of both his inner turmoil and Florida's natural and human worlds are brought to life in descriptive moments that enhance the investigative thriller: "I continued to stare at the ocean. A flock of terns stood on the beach, heads down, facing into the wind. It was blowing too hard to allow them to feed. They had nowhere to hide—they had no choice other than standing there huddled against the wind, waiting until this force beyond their control finally abated. I wondered what they were thinking." 

One doesn't expect animal rights issues to emerge from a story that begins with teen pranks and a killing, but animals are an intrinsic part of the story line, as is Zeke's involvement with an increasingly odd cast of characters who add elements of irony, humor, and Florida subculture into the overall plot: "I was sitting on my front porch, watching a lone sailboat tacking across the purple expanse of the river, when my phone rang. It was Todd. “Don’t tell me,” I said. “You ran out of booze and want to break into my house and raid my stash.” “I haven’t been drinking this morning.” "Congratulations. You’re making progress. You’re just stoned, then?” “Give me a break, Ezekiel, it’s Saturday. I’m calling because I was talking to Bear in the laundry shed and, guess what? He’s a furry! He was washing his paws in the gentle cycle.” 

Fur is an intriguing, hilarious romp through lives that coalesce in unusual ways. Ward Parker's ongoing touches of humor appear in unexpected places to add comic relief even during the most serious of situations: "God dang it,” McGeeney said. “Ricky Lee, what the hell’s going on?” His voice receded. Was I being rescued? Someone shouted, “Use the bolt cutters on the lock.” Cows bellowed in protest nearby and then dozens of them trotted by my stall. They kept coming. “Go, go, go! You are being liberated! Get into the truck!” The Captain ran by my stall behind the last cows. “Go, my friends! You will be safe now!” “Help me,” I called out. “Captain!” The Captain didn’t hear me, didn’t even look in my direction. The cows were rescued by ARF. Zeke was not." 

As the story escalates from one murder to bombings and more, readers will delight in how Zeke draws upon all his skills, both good and questionable, to not just solve one case, but navigate his way through a minefield of social and criminal challenges. 

Natural history comes alive in an unusual, intriguing manner as readers receive a story packed with twists, turns, and unexpected perspectives. 

Fans of noir mystery and the Florida-based stories and particular mystery/humour atmospheres of Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich are in for a treat with this compelling, fun survey, highly recommended for prior Zeke fans and newcomers alike. 

FUR: Zeke Adams Series, Book 2

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The Girl at the Hanging Tree
Mary Gray
Monster Ivy Publishing
1948095645           $14.99

The Girl at the Hanging Tree is a fine psychological thriller that revolves around Gemma Louise Coldiron's very different personalities. Gemma is self-confined to her mansion home, coming out only to shop for necessities every few weeks. Her alter personality Tansy (Gemma has Dissociative Identity Disorder) has imposed upon Gemma the need to stay inside, even as Gemma chafes against her limitations and wishes to travel despite the amnesia she suffers from. 

Tansy knows many things...including the fact that Gemma was once married to an oil tycoon who vanished, and that he led a secret society. She also knows too much, and her attempts to keep Gemma in the dark are starting to backfire. Will Gemma develop further alter personalities in an effort to keep her self and life together? 

As much a story about the inner mindset of a woman struggling against herself as a thriller about a possible real-world murder, Mary Gray creates a compelling story by juxtaposing two personas who operate in one body: "Consciousness hits me like a swift creek rolling over smooth and jagged boulders. Hand on doorknob, back against door. It appears Tansy’s decided it’s time for me to take over. Salt and pepper shakers go to war in my arms, so I shake them out. Grasp the nearest pillar. Looks like my alter has left me on the side porch this time." 

There's no mystery about Gemma's personality and amnesia condition. The tension is created as much by outside events and conundrums as by the mental struggles of a woman charged with not only handling her selves, but the possibility that she is either innocent or guilty of murder. 

Either way, it's up to Gemma to juggle Tansy and a missing man simultaneously. Exquisite tension between the two experiences is well-crafted in a story which delicately walks the line between a psychological exploration and a thriller. 

By using the first person and having Gemma more than aware of many facets of her mental condition, Gray crafts a story line that is compellingly realistic. Tansy's perspective is equally well done as she interacts with Gemma, and readers slowly learn the rationale behind her obsession with painting macabre art and her fixation on making sure Gemma stays safely at home: "Bringing a shaky hand to our forehead, Tansy says, “I’m tired of keepin’ all this to myself. It’s a monumental task, dearest. It’s why I have to paint. But I’m tired of harborin’ all the secrets, and I am tired of you not trustin’ me. I think it will be easier if you understand why I am who I am. You need to truly know exactly why leaving our home isn’t safe.” 

The many secrets that are revealed in the course of Gemma's journey enhance the intrigue and tension over the course of evolving events. As a result, the story solidly rests on psychological insights, and proves hard to put down. 

While The Girl at the Hanging Tree will reach thriller readers with its original, engrossing plot, it will especially delight those who enjoy fine psychological buildup and close inspections of mental conditions. Having Gemma be an aware woman who learns survival tactics while dealing with traumas that have split her personality makes for an approach which is wonderfully compelling throughout as it explores how a woman disassociates from trauma in an effort to put the pieces of a dangerous puzzle back together. 

The Girl at the Hanging Tree

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The Lethal Legacy
Jeannette de Beauvoir
Homeport Press
Print: 978-1-7340533-5-7              $12.95
Ebook: 978-1-7340533-6-4           $  4.99 

The Lethal Legacy adds to the expanding Sydney Riley series set in Provincetown about a wedding planner who inadvertently keeps finding herself involved in mysteries. 

Sydney meets singer Jordan Bellefort at a dinner, learns she is descended from a fugitive slave who sheltered in Provincetown during her flight to freedom, and then becomes deeply involved in her life. 

Can the history of his slave relative have led to the present-day murder of Reggie? And how can Sydney confront a legacy that holds death for its descendants? 

Historical fiction and mystery readers will relish not only the layers of past and present influence which permeate this story, but the captivating first-person observations of a feisty, clever woman who has made Provincetown and its history her turf. Sydney's unique style of reflective problem-solving lends to the evolution of events: "It all started with a disappearance. Two disappearances, in fact, that you’d think were completely unrelated. But I’m starting to think life doesn’t work that way. We put ideas and people and situations neatly into boxes, but they’re wild, aren’t they: they won’t stay where we put them, they won’t stay separate. There’s an undercurrent of connectedness flowing just under the surface of every event, every interaction, just waiting to bubble up and be noticed." 

Superior mystery stories take the time to craft atmosphere.  Jeannette de Beauvoir's special attention to detail lends a "you are there" feel to the story line, making it especially engrossing: "The sheer size of the Provincetown Inn invites intrigue...Everyone walks through going one way or another; the reception area is tucked off to one side and its staff are generally busy and not paying attention to what is happening in the lobby, noticing who is coming and going—and even if they were paying attention, they wouldn’t recognize anyone out of place, simply because no one looks out of place. You wouldn’t even have to be brisk or look like you knew where you were going." 

As she probes Reggie's death, Sydney keeps returning to a key question: "What was it about research into the Underground Railroad that had proven so deadly?" 

When her increasing entanglement in the mystery evolves to threaten a little girl's life, Sydney finds herself facing an adversary who holds all the keys to history, murder, and her future. All she holds is gut instinct and a determination to follow the leads to solve the crime and keep everyone around her safe. 

Jeannette de Beauvoir excels in her careful creation of Sydney's personality and efforts. One would think that a series addition to an already-extensive set would preclude the interest or abilities of newcomers to dive right in; but The Lethal Legacy is both a standalone mystery and a fitting contribution to Sydney's past escapades. It does a fine job of appealing to prior fans and new readers alike. 

With its proclivity for creating tense scenes, satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns of plot, and emotional connections between not just characters but historical precedent and revelations, The Lethal Legacy stands out as a powerful, engrossing read that is hard to put down and captivating to the end. Its gripping infusion of local and regional history is a huge plus. 

The Lethal Legacy

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Mind in the Clouds
Bruce M. Perrin
Mind Sleuth Publications
978-1-7320835-5-4                $11.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle 

Mind in the Clouds is the second contribution to the 'Mind Sleuth' series and tells of Dr. Sam “Doc” Price, whose new job involves evaluating a two-person team's training. But only one team member is human. The other is an artificially intelligent killing machine constructed for battle...and it defies the usual cognitive evaluation process that is Doc's specialty. 

The timeline, clearly outlined by chapter headings, begins two months before 'The Day' and continues in its aftermath. Especially intriguing is Doc's personal confrontation with the different approaches to artificial intelligence and how they differ from human thought. His internal debate injects satisfyingly complexity and intriguing dilemmas into the thriller.

Doc is not only confronting technology, but his own concepts of intellect. He'll also soon confront his own mortality as he becomes involved in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game in the desert, against an impossible adversary. 

Perhaps Doc’s newly conferred degree (which means that he still has flexibility to adapt to unusual and impossible situations) gives him an advantage in his fight to survive. Bruce M. Perrin takes time to build this peril. While this doesn't result in the usual high-octane approach of the thriller genre as a whole; in this case, the buildup will delight readers who value depth and complexity over the facade of fast pace alone. The in-depth technological discussions are requirements for the thorough enjoyment of the premise and action, and neatly set the stage for the steadily-increasing confrontations to come. 

Is artificial intelligence truly superior to human cognition? Who will determine its nature? Are the basic premises of psychological and cognitive processes applicable to machine intelligence? And what happens when analysis and practice go awry? Sam comes to question the moral and ethical outcome of his own involvement in these experiments: "I looked on in horror as the symbols for three Hellfire missiles appeared on the display, each ending its flight a half-second later at the Maintenance Building. Legs that only moments before had been so restless I couldn’t stand in one place now failed me. I dropped into the chair next to Troy and hung my head. Would I be toasting Jill and her new husband at their wedding in a few months … or would I be explaining to him how I had drawn her into a killing field during her funeral in a few days? The pain and guilt I felt threatened to paralyze me." 

These and other thought-provoking questions are wound into an absorbing story that may not hold the staccato pace of some of its technological thriller competitors, but that more than makes up for it with a deeper foundation and the logical and psychological revelations it produces. 

Thriller readers who like more than a casual dose of high tech in their story lines will find Mind in the Clouds just the ticket for an involving, compelling read. 

Mind in the Clouds

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Photographs of October
M.K. Deppner
Publisher: Magpie Press
Paperback: 978-1-7345602-0-6    $19.99
Ebook: B0878Y7JYV                   $  5.99
Amazon Order Link:
Barnes & Noble: 

Photographs of October: A Historical Thriller from America's Heartland tells of photographer Olivia, who is given a photography assignment in the Midwest and a deadline she's unlikely to meet. This is especially true when she discovers that every photo she takes holds the same mysterious figure in the background...a figure that, it turns out, is not from her time. 

Olivia operates in 2003. In 1897, William Monroe's ruthless pursuit of Evelyn Weatherford, despite the presence of her love Austin Hearth in her life, leads two men to clash over her hand in marriage. 

M.K. Deppner crafts an engaging story with two different timelines of events which dovetail in an unexpected manner. The resulting ghost story mystery is replete with many elements of Midwestern atmosphere. 

Challenged by the big-ticket assignment coupled with a string of disappearances that portends danger, Olivia is assisted by her friend, Dr. Simon Monroe, as she pursues more than career success with her latest assignment. 

Olivia's never had a male best friend before. His role becomes more complicated as the mystery embraces them both, leading to weird feelings and more than a photographic challenge from the past. 

Readers who like art and intrigue mixed into a story with a firm sense of Midwestern culture will especially relish the atmosphere and efforts of Olivia as she pursues something beyond the craft she knows well. 

Evelyn and Austin risk much to pursue their love and Olivia uncovers clues to the past that lead to present-day conundrums and intrigue. Readers interested in haunted histories and mysteries will find themselves especially intrigued by the blend of blossoming romance and danger that permeates both timelines in Photographs of October. 

Deppner takes the time to fully develop not just the mystery, but each character's motivations, personality, and individual challenges in pursuing their lives and interests. This takes more time than most reads, but results in a full-bodied experience, as appropriate time is made for rich descriptions, both psychological and environmental. 

Twists and turns of plot belay easy prediction of outcomes, while the evolving personalities and pursuits of all the characters make for a story line that is equally absorbing whether the setting is 2003 or in 1897. 

Insights into the art and photography world permeate a spooky atmosphere that is delightfully, delicately wrought with a solid attention to detail. All these elements make Photographs of October an outstanding recommendation for audiences interested in a combination of thriller, ghost story, and romance centered on Midwestern experience and artistic circles. 

Photographs of October

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The Soul of a Stranger
Phillip Otts
D.X. Varos, Ltd.
Paperback: 978-1-941072-78-3    $18.95
Ebook: 978-1-941072-79-0           $  6.99  

Brothers Martin McCrary and John Harvey are Union spies hiding in their South Carolina home under different identities. Martin is a newly-commissioned militia officer privy to information invaluable to his Union contacts, while his secret half-brother John, a former slave, is organizing his own response to help the Union in its battle. 

The Soul of a Stranger is the second book in the The Harvey & McCrary Adventures series, and explores what happens when war changes everything for these brothers, from their political stand and commitments to their relationship with each other. It provides a powerful story that winds not just through the Charleston area's politics and leaders, but the lives of businessmen, naval officers, and others impacted by evolving events. 

Perhaps the greatest strength of this story lies in the fact that it takes time to explore special interests, interrelationships, and the kinds of struggles that both unite and divide people. As murder and arson evolve from such struggles, leading to deaths that change relationships and social and political trajectories, the two brothers find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of conflict that threatens their hearts as well as their ideals. 

From ruses to disarm the rebels and buy time to decisions that change life forever, Phillip Otts provides a hard-hitting set of encounters, confrontations, and mercurial circumstances that test the convictions of the brothers and everyone around them. 

Many novels about the Civil War focus on battle strategies, changing ideals and relationships, and the struggle for achievement and success. The Soul of a Stranger differs from most in that it includes a variety of special interests and perspectives in the form of characters who interact with, change, and support the brothers in different ways; and who themselves are twisted and changed by the tides of war and division. 

Thomas Wolfe wrote "you can't go home again," and that is certainly true for brothers who make irreversible decisions. But if you can't return to what is familiar and comfortable, where then can you go? 

As Martin and John face the consequences of their actions and choices, readers are given more than a series of battles over different sides in the Civil War in a thoroughly engrossing examination of matters of the heart and soul that linger in the mind long after the final salvo. 

While the open-ended nature of the story's conclusion, which gives obvious room for a sequel, may frustrate those who like stand-alone stories with solid conclusions, most of the threads are neatly tied up during the course of The Soul of a Stranger, and so the presence of a door ajar should lead to more delight than angst. 

The Soul of a Stranger is highly recommended reading for those who want their Civil War stories firmly rooted in social change and struggle, and who like tales that go beyond obvious points of contention to examine the ethical, moral, and psychological challenges of survival during a war that embraces everything...including family connections. 

The Soul of a Stranger

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Johan Fundin
Asioni Press
Paperback: 978-1-9999817-4-7    $16.99
ebook: 978-1-9999817-5-4           $    .99 

Species tells of a secret biomedical lab experiment connected to Russia, and paleoanthropologist Dr. Maxi Reimer's odd clash with the world of killers and spies, for reasons unknown to him. 

Pursued in a way he's never been before, Dr. Reimer is forced to also chase the truth about a dangerous, illegal experiment and the reasons why some would kill to keep it hidden. 

Maxi's paleoanthropological find is one of the keys that places him in the crosshairs of dangerous possibilities. But the other is his determination to uncover the truth to save his life and his findings. It's this effort, central to the action and intrigue permeating Species, which makes for a gripping science thriller story that keeps readers fully engaged and on edge. 

Johan Fundin excels in capturing the elements of a medical thriller ala Robin Cook and the high-octane adventure action of Indiana Jones and top-notch sci-fi writers. 

The science of the specter of bioengineered Neanderthals released to wreck havoc on the world is intriguingly, realistically presented. Because it mirrors active possibilities in modern science, it becomes all the more engrossing for its inclusion of real science pursuits and studies. 

Details down to the genetic predisposition of taste are an intrinsic part of the story that keep the science realistic and the plot engaging, while the potentials of neo-Neanderthals are explored with a clever hand to mingling scientific process with the action elements of a solid thriller. 

The result is an absorbing, engaging story that is realistic, nicely developed, cemented in believable characters, and hard to put down. 


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The Trapped Daughter
Jay Kerk
Jay Kerk Books
9781513665276             $11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle 

"When locked up in my room, I can no longer imagine good things." This opening statement in The Trapped Daughter offers a clue to the young protagonist's strong voice in this "dark and twisted psychological thriller" (as it bills itself) about a young woman wronged by a man and punished by her father, locked in a repressive mansion both of her father's rule and her own making. 

First, Jay Kerk draws readers into the psychological tangle of emotions and fears that is narrator Belle Andresson's world. Through first-person observations of her life, readers become attuned to her role as her father's hostage in his home, and her dilemma surrounding Gabe's ethereal presence in her life. 

Freedom isn't the only goal she cultivates after eight days of being locked up. Understanding is also high on her list of objectives: "I can only think of escaping to survive, but before escaping, I must know why my father is doing this to me." 

Kerk is a master at mingling dreams with reality, both over the presence and figure of the mercurial Gabe and in Belle's own perceptions of what is happening to her. This focus on psychological tension, revelation, and the fine lines between reality and fantasy are the hallmarks of a thriller which questions what is real and what is not. 

Readers thus receive an ever-changing scenario of good, evil, purposeful intentions, and survival and danger which is always in flux, keeping them guessing about Belle's situation, the people in her life, and the boundaries of reality. 

While this story is a thriller with many tense encounters, struggles, and moments; above all, it is a masterpiece of psychological inspection that hones its focus on the emotional twists and turns Belle experiences as both a victim and a prisoner: "My emotions are conflicted. Part of me wants to leap up and whoop with joy; the other part is scared. I feel like a child suddenly, faced with the wideness and strangeness of a world that has been beyond my reach for weeks. I draw a slow breath and focus on the first feeling. This is what I wanted. I cannot let myself think I did the wrong thing. Selfdoubt will latch its claws in me, and I’ll find myself yearning for the safety of Richard’s prison." 

Belle's self-inspections are sharply exquisite, and the tension is well-drawn. Thriller readers who enjoy complex psychological inspections will be delighted in a story that offers no clear answers and directions, but keeps its audience on its toes until its ending. Its conclusion is unexpected on some levels and predictable on others as it winds through the wellsprings of illness, art, and love. 

The Trapped Daughter is especially recommended for readers who enjoy psychological mysteries and the process of coming to terms with special abilities and perceptions. 

The Trapped Daughter

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The Wall
Tetsuo Ted Takashima
9781940842462             $15.95 

Political thriller readers, especially those already knowledgeable about the plights of refugee immigrants, will find much to like about The Wall: The Refugees’ Path to a New Republic. One standout feature that sets this story above and beyond others is Tetsuo Takashima's attention to the logic and impressions of both sides of the tale, which revolves around the infamous Wall separating Mexico from the U.S. and what happens when this seemingly impenetrable border is threatened by desperate refugees who are dying under a harsh dictatorship. 

Takashima's descriptions of lives on both sides of the wall are vivid and immediate, from the start: "The nervous energy seizing the soldiers grew yet more potent. They once again pointed their guns. “Fingers off your triggers, soldiers,” said Jadon. “We’re just trying to scare them. Remember, they’re not armed. No harm will come to you, so calm down.” It did serve to soothe some nerves for the time being, but how long would he be able to keep that up? The crowd, which was dyed as red as the desert, kept closing the distance toward The Wall, planting fear into the young soldiers’ hearts. Before they knew it, the refugees who they thought were still asleep had gotten onto their feet too. In a blink, the scarlet sunlight from beyond the dunes had given way, and a great throng was flooding the other side of The Wall." 

Captain Jadon Green thought he was doing his duty by defending his country against the refugees who stormed America's defenses. For his harsh response, he was named 'The Border Butcher'—and his life hasn't been the same, since. Shame and honor are sometimes too-close companions and Green's actions have placed him seemingly forever on the wrong side of the wall of moral and ethical behavior. 

Now he has a new mission: leading an army into a Central American country to build a new nation from the roots of a revolution. Is his latest assignment an opportunity for final redemption, or further disgrace? 

Readers confront the options facing Jadon as he leads attacks. When Jadon and his revolutionary army find themselves on a dangerous trek that tests their physical, emotional, and moral prowess, Jadon slips back into the soldier/leader persona he once claimed so proudly...this time, with a sense of leadership and caution that once again portends disaster: "You get a ten-minute break. The second your break’s over, we move. Everyone, I want you to keep walking even if it kills you. All of us will pitch in to help anyone who physically can’t walk. US Army soldiers like me never leave anyone behind. We make it back together, or else.” 

Whether it's describing a jungle trek, challenges to leadership and ethical choices, revolution and death, rebuilding and life, or political and military conundrums,  Takashima's settings assume a realistic life of their own as various characters consider options, face consequences, and sometimes find their present choices too eerily connected to past experiences. 

However, this story is about more than Jadon's personal redemption. It's about changing or confronting the hearts and minds of others involved, directly or inadvertently, in his mission and ideals: "You’re expecting the people to rise up,” Arsenio told Bryan heatedly, “but they’re not that heroic. People are selfish. All they really care about is themselves and their own families, in that order. They couldn’t care less about the nation.” It's also a close inspection of the plight of refugees caught in the middle of warring political systems and the daily, impossible struggles faced by those who confront enemies both within their nations and from outside influences in potential new homes. 

The blend of military and social and political insights makes for an action-packed story tempered by strategic and moral considerations alike. This imparts a rich flavor to the adventure and suspense components of this political thriller. 

Readers who like their stories to embrace wider-ranging facets than singular actions and encounters will appreciate the broader insights into society-building revolutionary forces and the political and social influences that drive them. The primary story revolves around how refugees are created and their struggles to survive, illustrating the special challenges involved in creating and managing humane immigration and refugee systems worldwide. 

The Wall is a powerful story of nation-building and changing hearts and minds. It will prove an attractively absorbing saga for any thriller reader who likes politics embedded in the actions and changing purposes of leaders and followers. The close inspection of the roots and minds of refugees creates an added dimension of understanding not present in most other genre reads. 

The Wall

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Against My Better Judgment
B.T. Polcari
The Wild Rose Press
Digital:  978-1-5092-3277-2 $4.99
Paperback:  978-1-5092-3276-5   $16.99 Against my better judgment Against my better judgment

Apple Books: Against my better judgment

Against My Better Judgment tells of freshman Sara Donovan, who has choices to make as her first year of college draws to a close, leaving her to face both finals and new possibilities. She never expected that her impulsive purchase of an Egyptian souvenir funerary mask would add intrigue into her life, but Sara's increasing certainty that her purchase is authentic and illegal leads her into dangerous territory tempered by unexpected romance. 

Sara sees herself as being passionate about life, her discoveries, and her future even as others brand her "stubborn and hardheaded." This quality serves her well as she pursues the truth despite her sometimes-clumsy, awkward attempts to confront the world. 

Her spunky voice and determination provide the grit and sass in a lively story, narrated in the first person to capture the extent of her experiences and determined nature: "I’m thinking hard about making some changes in my life. Fast. Starting with ditching that fricking independent drumbeat of mine and taking up something else—like the glockenspiel. Otherwise, kiss ’Bama goodbye and say hello to living back home with my parents. And the exciting life of a commuter student." 

Sara is an effective snoop until romance thwarts her. And then there's her canine companion Mauzzy, who adds further insights into her life on many different levels. 

Readers who enjoy mystery, comedy, and romance will relish the special blend created by B.T. Polcari. Sara's feisty manner and fun view of life keeps her stubborn, yet she also harbors an ability to rethink, recreate, and reformulate her plans of attack. These approaches keep readers on their toes as she consults her family, dog, and friends and revises her game plans accordingly. 

Blissfully ignorant of the real devices of being either a spy or a problem-solver, Sara is at her best when confronting the professionals, as in an FBI interview: "I cracked a smile. “Ohhhh, I think she can take care of herself. Pretty sure she owns a very—colorful—past.” Grant cocked his head. “Colorful? How colorful?” “I’m not sure, but she told me her walker was part of her—cover? And last Friday while we drove around talking, she made some crazy maneuvers in her truck. She said she had to ‘take care of some dry cleaning,’ but we never even passed a dry cleaner.” The G-men made eye contact. “She specifically used that term?” Agent Walker asked. “Yup. Dry cleaning. Why?” “In certain circles, the term means eluding or evading surveillance,” he replied. “Certain circles?” I asked." 

Readers who enjoy laugh-out-loud moments and the winning combination of a clumsy but effective amateur investigator who stumbles into unfamiliar territory will find Against My Better Judgment wonderfully entertaining, refreshingly different, and just the ticket for a lively read. 

Against My Better Judgment

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The Calling
Ron Terranella
Independently Published
ASIN: B08BX5PJ7Y              $9.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle 

The Calling offers a narrower focus on the lifelong effects of childhood adversity than most novels provide, is set against the backdrop of World War II, and follows a child's evolution in Manhattan as his experience changes both his life and those around him. 

Although Ron Terranella's slow-building story is about this young victim's struggles, molestation is not the only force affecting his life. Paulie matures and experiences the return of his father from service and the many social changes wrought by the war. He also absorbs family secrets about a cruel immigrant grandfather who was jealous, suspicious, and didn't like American ways, a talented grandmother who tried to smooth things over for her kids, and experiences fiery relationships with sibling Joey. 

Religious influence, inspection, and dangers are nicely woven into the story line, creating a delicate dance between moral, ethical, and spiritual questions as a Catholic boy takes it upon himself to turn all his experiences into something different. 

Terranella provides no pat characters, easy answers, or obvious documentation that falls into clichéd areas common to stories of abuse. Instead, he crafts a story that surveys all kinds of influences on Paulie's recovery and evolution. While his experience is central to forming his adult life and perceptions, it's just one driving force directing his mature choices. 

This approach makes for a more complex, better balanced read than most, incorporating typical Catholic perceptions of life and values of the 1950s era: "Divorce! Movie stars got divorced, not ordinary people—never Catholics! The idea was foreign and grotesque—like bigamy or homosexuality! It was unthinkable!" 

As Paulie and Joey confront the impact of their childhood and how it has led each to view the world with uncompromising black and white rigidity, readers gain a story of how each adult struggles with a lasting legacy that cannot be justified or easily explained by family heritage. 

Firmly rooted in religious and social inspection, it should be noted that The Calling is no light read. It offers no easy answers, no predictable formula writing, and creates characters who struggle to live with the past while forging new paths in the present. 

The result is a compelling story of abuse, recovery, family and religious ties that will keep readers absorbed in Paulie and Joey's changing world as they foster a feeling that they must journey far from the family to find—hope. 

The Calling is very highly recommended. Readers will find it a multifaceted standout novel among coming-of-age literature. 

The Calling

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The Day Hal Quit
Jim Christ
Joseph and Associates 
978-0692498484            $9.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle 

The Day Hal Quit brings us into the life of Hal Mull, who was orphaned at age ten and grew up on a borderlands ranch, following a passive, mild manner that also keeps people at a distance—even the women in his life and those he professes to love. 

A Korean War veteran, Hal ekes out a living as a bartender who never anticipated or asked for much of anything out of life. But when his boss’ daughter, Tara, talks him into bringing a machine gun to her in the Arizona desert, he becomes involved in the dangerous objectives of an attractive young woman who uses his compliant nature and his desire for her to pursue the kind of life she wants. 

Hal’s subsequent involvement with dangerous men, desperate women, and underground lifestyles and drugs is anything but what he wanted from life. As Tara drags him into this chaotic world, Hal's secret relationship with her involves him in illegal escapades that drive him far from the calm life and persona he’s always cultivated. 

Jim Christ's novel is at once a psychological drama, with elements of Western frontier survival and confrontation, and a story of crime, seduction and salvation. It will appeal to and is highly recommended reading for literature fans, as well as readers in the suspense/mystery genre. This audience will find the action well-rendered, the characterization intriguing, and the relationships between disparate individuals eloquently unique. 

It's refreshingly different to have an inherently passive individual be the protagonist of a story in which his carefully-cultivated persona is challenged by events instigated by a risk-taking, ambitious young woman. 

The Day Hal Quit’s exploration of crime, peace, loyalty and adventure will keep readers guessing about Hal's evolutionary process to the end. Its blend of crime, romance, and problem-solving efforts creates an engrossing read.  

The Day Hal Quit

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Dragonflies at Night
Anne Marie Bennett
KaleidoSoul Media
9798663865104      $3.99 Kindle 

Dragonflies at Night tells of a mother/daughter connection after death, fears of cancer and connection, and the possibilities of love between a thirty-something couple whose secrets and fears have prevented them forming connections, in the past. 

Mother Deidre Rose continues to watch over her daughter even after she passes away from inherited cancer in her forties. Her biggest fear is that she's passed this legacy to daughter Savannah. But more has been inherited than physical challenges alone, and Savannah is newly tasked with finding her way through these psychological fears to live a better life. 

Anne Marie Bennett's story covers romance and mother/daughter relationships in a gentle, compassionate manner. This draws readers into the perceptions and logic of all involved, from potential suitor and successful artist Ben's mistrust and loneliness to Savannah's drive to create a positive direction for her life even as she eschews the notion of building a family. 

All three personalities contribute to a gentle probe of love and the willingness of those set in their ways to let another person become involved in their lives: "He could feel some of the adrenaline from the concert dissipating into the wide openness of the night sky, and into the welcoming presence of this woman. He was deeply touched. Who else had ever asked him how he felt about his own concert? As Savannah began to lightly stroke his face, he closed his eyes, savoring the sensations." 

As they meet each other's friends and form new connections, they begin to resolve and overcome some of the barriers that have led to their individual isolation. These range from Ben's ongoing feeling that everyone wants something from him to Savannah's determination not to pass on the health legacy she may have inherited to children who might come later. 

As she faces the challenges of others around her, Savannah comes to realize that the close connections in her life are more important than she'd perceived: "What do you mean, you don’t see the point? The point is life, the living, the loving! Look at us. We love you. We certainly don’t think your time is up." 

Dragonflies at Night is an evocative exploration of fears, futures, and connections between family and friends. It will delight readers of women's fiction who look for stories of romantic adversity, growth, and change. It's also highly recommended reading for women who want an exploration health and family issues added into the romantic interplays and evolution of all involved. 

Dragonflies at Night

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Flowing Water, Falling Flowers
X.H. Collins
MWC Press

Flowing Water, Falling Flowers is an evocative novel that centers on the flowing lives of three family dynasties: the Hans, Wangs, and Fangs. A family tree for each, and a poem written by a Chinese Zen monk in the 10th century, opens a story that opens in 1851 China and moves from there to modern-day Chicago, where Rose Ming is recovering from the breakup of a relationship with a married man and the loss of her job. 

Rose journeys first to her mother's California house, but the two then embark on a sojourn to China, where their family roots and heritage draw them into a mystery that has impacted their lives for generations. 

Rose's experiences are narrated in the first person. The same poetic style that introduces Flowing Water, Falling Flowers via the monk's reflection is apparent in a voice that observes the nuances of daily living with a compelling synthesis of metaphor and observation: "Women are made of water. So says a Chinese proverb. Water is so soft that it changes itself to fit whatever shape it is allowed to be. But water can also turn an angled and rough rock into a round and smooth pebble, erode the mountain that blocks its flow, and capsize a ship it carries. If I were an ideal woman, by this notion, I would be soft yet persistent enough to turn Harriton, my angled rock into the round pebble that I could hold on to." 

The flavorful blend of literary style and personal inspection continues throughout Rose's story, blending disparate themes of family relationships and challenges, intergenerational experiences, and cultural encounters with an astute eye to capturing details and nuances of life in modern China. 

Rose's voice is nicely juxtaposed by the third-person experiences of other characters, creating a compelling and alluring story from different viewpoints. 

As superstition, legends, and intrigue enter the picture, readers will relish the care taken to impart the social and cultural interchanges between families and experiences: "Ahh, the Dream of the Fang women!” Uncle De-chen said. “I thought your aunt was joking when she said that your mom and she had the same dream, about their grandma Iris asking them to look for somebody in the family. But one day when Hong-mei was in college, I happened to be in Chengdu and was visiting her. She told me a dream she had the night before that bothered her. Hong-mei did not know about her mom and aunt’s dreams. I admit that I had a shiver running down my spine when I heard the story. In Hong-mei’s dream it was Grandma Pearl who visited, but she asked for the same thing. I have no reason to doubt that the Fang ladies all had the same dream on this matter.” 

As its title promises, Flowing Water, Falling Flowers gently flows through these disparate lives and experiences, giving voice to the strengths, weaknesses, and choices and consequences of generations of characters. X.H. Collins crafts a masterful tale of intrigue and discovery that traverses lies, truths, spiritual intention, social interaction, and cultural revelation with an equally deft hand. 

From banishment to far-away places to husband matchmaking conundrums and the price of decisions made for the future and betterment of generations to come, Flowing Water, Falling Flowers offers a cultural, social, and psychological inspection that is as literary and compelling as its title. It is highly recommended as a journey of discovery and change that will appeal to anyone interested in the lasting impact of Chinese heritage and culture. 

Flowing Water, Falling Flowers

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Hotel Chelsea
Jeremy Bates
Independently Published
 B083TXWDH3            $4.99 Kindle 

Hotel Chelsea is the 6th book in the 'World's Scariest Places' series and follows a reporter's experience as he investigates a hotel's continuous renovations and comes to realize that its reputation for being a haunted place may be entirely well-deserved. 

Fans of spooky stories and ghostly encounters will relish the atmosphere of the Chelsea Association Building's Hotel Chelsea, with its dual magnificence and slowly-building terror.  

As Malcolm, a magazine reporter for City Living, takes stock of the iconic New York City landmark's reputation and strange modern incarnation, he becomes increasingly caught up in a series of events that surround the sad state of the hotel and the odd characters who reside in it. 

Bloodbaths ensue, but Jeremy Bates is careful to keep them tasteful and in keeping with the main point of the story, which is the evolving horror and truths that Malcolm unearths as his relationship with the odd building and its eccentric inhabitants (both living and dead) evolves. 

From ghosts on the roof to images of those long dead, more is going on than a wily developer who wants to make life as difficult as possible to force the hotel's residents to move out. 

Part 2 is introduced with a series of black and white photos documenting famous personalities associated with New York City's iconic hotel. Real figures associated with the hotel in the 1980s and 90s are linked to this strange mystery in an evolving story that moves between fiction and reality in a very satisfying manner. 

Ghost story readers are in for a special treat because of this unique approach, which neatly juxtaposes fiction with real (and dead) people, as when Malcolm shares a drug experience with dead punk rocker Sid Vicious. 

Is Hotel Chelsea a bastion of creative forces that can never die? As Malcolm moves deeper into the hotel's history and spirits, he comes to believe something dangerously different than he'd initially envisioned. 

Jeremy Bates does a stellar job of bringing the hotel's history, odd characters, and mystery to life. The blend of nonfiction and fiction is nicely done, and the story is riveting whether readers turn to it as a quasi-history or as a modern-day ghost story. 

Its ability to build fine tension, explain New York City's iconic atmosphere and culture, and inject intrigue into the ghostly encounters makes Hotel Chelsea a highly recommended read for mystery, ghost story, and New York-centered fiction fans alike. 

Hotel Chelsea

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It Doesn't Have to be That Way
Mary Rowen
Evolved Publishing, Ltd.
978-1622535842 $15.95 Paper/$4.99 for Kindle/ePub
Author Website:

Molly Dolan is in her twenties, but still hasn't learned enough about relationships and how to create a healthy one in It Doesn't Have to be That Way. 

She begins her discussion of her life, friends, and loves in 2012 in Arlington, Massachusetts, reviewing a relationship which holds all the warning signs for disaster in a summary too many women will recognize from personal experience: "Joe called the shots for us and I didn’t mind. I mean, why piss him off? Sure, he wasn’t always easy to deal with, but neither was I. And sacrifice is critical to all good relationships. Right?" 

As she navigates unexpected job changes, new relationships, and girlfriends and enemies, the perspective moves from her chronicles to those of her 72-year-old neighbor Fred Flaherty's observations and insights, and the trajectory which sends them both on an exploration different from anything in their present or past worlds. 

Fred, too, has suffered in his life, but maintains a positive perspective about a future that holds nothing but challenging changes for himself and his young neighbor. 

It's rare to find a story that explores an intergenerational friendship and relationship. Mary Rowen does a fine job of exploring hard times and their impact on two very different individuals, probing how proximity and shared experiences connect them in unexpected ways. 

Readers will also appreciate the realistic attention to detail that moves Molly from an obsession with her latest possibility, Andy, to a newfound appreciation for a man she took for granted. 

It Doesn't Have to be That Way is women's fiction at its best. It's a warm story of mercurial relationships, friendships, life hardships, and unusual connections that defy perspectives, hopes, and dreams at all stages of life. 

Whether it's chosen for a beach read or a warm story educating women about relationships, It Doesn't Have to be That Way is a satisfyingly compelling read highly recommended for readers who like their characters realistic, warm, and thoroughly engrossing. 

It Doesn't Have to be That Way

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La Chimere of Prague, Part II
Rick Pryll
Foolishness Press
978-0-9745056-9-5         $18.99

Part II of La Chimere of Prague is set in the late 1990s and follows the life of Joseph, who is set to move on in this sequel to La Chimere of Prague: The Gap Year. 

The former book reviewed womanizer Joseph's approach to life, his dysfunctional relationships, the evolution of his reconciliation with the alluring city of Prague, and the equally alluring presence and memory of love in his life. 

Readers of Rick Pryll's first story will find this latest probe picks up where prior events left off. Joseph is about to "leave this fairy tale flat behind" and accepts the risk that he might never be able to return. 

It's hard to leave paradise. It's even harder for him to begin anew, where Karina might not a different place, with new possibilities.  His move introduces new sexual adventures and new self-examination: "Joseph questions himself. Do you love her? Do you love her enough? How will you know?" 

Some of those who swirl through his life have no illusions about romance and love, such as Benny, a "rationalist to the core" who doesn't believe in romance, love, or heaven. He seems the least likely person to understand Joseph's journey and his mercurial relationships with Camila, Ilona, and a host of females. And yet, he becomes an important part of Joseph's evolutionary process. 

Joseph wants to tell a woman he loves her, or explore the effect she has on him. But something prevents him from accepting a deeper form of emotional intimacy than he's prepared to give. 

Set against the backdrop of the city and culture of old Europe, Joseph's journey continues to unfold in the form of journal entries that capture the immediacy and complexity of his friends and lovers. Rick Pryll excels in capturing both the culture and the history of old Europe, injecting a modern young man's growth into this backdrop. Psychological depth and detail offers an exceptionally well-done blend with the history. Readers looking for a story of historical and psychological entanglements will find the second book of La Chimere of Prague an outstanding survey that follows Joseph's ongoing choices, consequences, and evolving perceptions of life. 

Its deep psychological inspection of romance, ideals, and realities provides a powerful story that eventually comes full circle back to Joseph's strongest connections as he rejects the past, only to find it intrinsically wound into his future. 

Prior readers of La Chimere of Prague will find this continuation of Joseph's exploits and realizations just as powerfully wrought as his introductory experiences, and will welcome the ongoing struggles and journey he takes. 

La Chimere of Prague, Part II

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Love: A Story
Bill Smoot
Adelaide Books
9781950437818             $19.60 

Love: A Story interlaces the philosophical and emotional journey of a man who faces both cancer and love. He's wondering if the former struggle will unfairly affect and negate the presence of the latter, when forty-year-old Michael meets and begins to love a girl in her twenties. 

From considerations of what is just and fair in life and love to the dual nature of his evolving relationship with Li-Li and his struggle to remain cancer-free, Love: A Story captures an unexpected slice of life's realities and challenges as Michael develops his relationship. 

Hard questions are asked, whether about sexuality after cancer treatment or fairness in the relationship: "Was Michael's love for Li-Li paternalistic? Was there something condescending in his tolerance?" 

Michael's journey both before and after his developing love for Li-Li is nicely charted. It's specific in its considerations of pros, cons, and their different life journeys, walking readers through a world where a middle-aged man feels out of control in more than one way, challenged equally by love and health. 

Love: A Story may be about romance, but it's also a self-assessment that injects philosophical and psychological considerations into the process of living a meaningful, effective life. 

Readers will appreciate Love: A Story for its added, expanded value as a survey of unexpected new directions in life. It's not a romance, per se, but a singular discussion of growth's many facets which winds a love affair into a bigger survival picture. It's highly recommended for readers who like their love stories multifaceted and revealing. 

Love: A Story

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The Magic Ingredient
Lindy Miller
Rosewind Books 
978-1645480396            $14.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle 

The Magic Ingredient is a holiday novel set in Bar Harbor and features the challenges Eve Silver faces as the tourist season's end leaves her with barely enough money to get by, at what should be the most profitable time of the year. Her family business, Mount Desserts & Tea, needs to win a coveted catering bid to continue. 

Herein lays the catch, because the annual harvest festival and the survival of her family business aren't the only things pulling at Eve's heartstrings. So is the presence of newcomer Jeff Parish, a widower who has moved to town with his young daughter in a desire to start over. 

Eve already has her hands full with the business and fall preparations. Can she handle a budding romance in the midst of all this? 

And then there's Jeff and his daughter, who are still recovering from loss: "Can't you give me something to make the feeling go away?" she asked after she'd muddied up his sleeve with mascara and heartache. "A tea or a candle? Mom must have known about some kind of herb to stop my heart from hurting. She sold stuff like that in her shop." Jeff thought about all his wife's things, packed away in boxes elsewhere in the house. About all the times he'd wondered the same thing." 

Is this really the time for either of them to become involved? And yet, sparks are flying. Sometimes life takes over when matters of the heart appear stalled. 

Lindy Miller crafts an excellent, clean romance which revolves around the atmosphere of Bar Harbor, Maine. She captures the sights, sounds, and smells of the region, along with its holiday celebration preparations, and thus injects the romance's evolution with a sense of community, personal atmosphere, and change. 

Her attention to exploring the lives and emotions of all involved, rather than just Eve or Jeff alone, gives a full-faceted feel to the story that keeps readers involved in the roots of all the choices and the origins of connections that turn into love. 

The underlying theme of fighting for what is wanted in life is a positive thread that connects Jeff, Eve, and their readers: "Eve sighed. "I haven't given up. I'm bracing for an inevitability." "All I'm saying is defeat is not a good look on you. The Eve Silver I knew would never have just laid down and waited for disaster." "Hey, that's easy for you to say. You were always the brave one. Never met a challenge you couldn't handle. I'm just trying to stay ahead of the disaster—you’re the one who goes running into it." Allie clicked her tongue against her teeth. "I like fire, but there's more than one way to be brave." 

These thought-provoking, emotion-driven moments are another reason why this novel is so provocative, realistic, and compelling. 

Romance readers who enjoy cozy stories of small towns and changing emotional and financial scenarios will relish Eve and Jeff's revised lives as they consider their options. The holiday overlay in The Magic Ingredient lends it a warm flavor that lingers in the mind and heart long after Eve and Jeff tackle their personal obstacles and the potential promise of love. 

The Magic Ingredient

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Mountain Heat
Natrelle Long
Yellow City Publishing
Print: 978-1-7354113-0-9              Price: $15.99
EBook: 978-1-7354113-1-6           Price: $ 4.99

Charley Anderson is awakened by troubling news from her mother. Her ex-husband Jimmy has been missing for at least three weeks. Given the stormy relationship between parents and daughter, Charley is the last to know of any family troubles. 

Charged with finding an ex-husband whom her parents prefer over their own daughter, Charley embarks on a journey from New York to New Mexico in search of answers, falling into more trouble than she expected. 

Mountain Heat may be the fourth book in the Charley Anderson Crime Series, but it requires no prior familiarity with Charley or her exploits in order to prove accessible to newcomers. It opens with the bang of a missing person who holds both a personal and an estranged connection to investigator Charley, then evolves to a satisfyingly complex situation which draws in family, friends, and strangers alike. 

As she traces Jimmy's steps, she deals with everything from fighting a trained assassin to traveling the back roads of Indian lands and confronting men with assault rifles. 

This fast-paced story of a woman who tracks down both a murderer and a mystery is riveting and involving. Charley discovers that an Indian group relied on Jimmy to get their pueblo back, bringing tribal history into play. 

Natrelle Long does an excellent job of expanding Charley's abilities, personality, and tenacity in this latest mystery. The exploration of Native American involvements and issues is a satisfying added benefit to a murder mystery that embraces all kinds of issues as Charley strives to uncover the truth. 

Murder mystery fans who enjoy strong, spirited female investigators that that tackle problems of their own as well as threats from a myriad of forces will find Mountain Heat a compelling read. It's highly recommended for those who like their heroines imperfect yet strong. 

Mountain Heat

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Red River Reunion
John Layne
Labrador Publishing
9780999879672             $17.95
John Layne’s Official website:
Amazon purchase link:  

Red River Reunion will attract Western novel readers with its 1877 story of U.S. Deputy Marshal Luxton Danner and Texas Ranger Wes Payne, who represent the combined force of law in the wild, wild West. 

The story opens with a bang of confrontation as a job Wes had described to Sheriff Dan Kirby as being an 'easy' confrontation with a tack thief turns into a gunfight with a group determined to shoot their way out of town. 

Unlike the typical Western, however, the scenarios Wes and Danner face are sometimes anything but predictable, as when Wes observes a group of nuns in the frontier town of Buffalo Gap, a further indicator of how much the town is changing. 

John Layne's attention to rich details craft scenarios that embrace issues of wealth and land ownership; young family fugitives; women who assume roles of unexpected power as they embrace the independence and resilience of a frontier lifestyle; and lives wasted because rescue didn't come in time. All these angles contribute to the rich fabric of Western daily experience. 

The descriptions, changing relationships, and Western style of confrontation and legal developments set Red River Reunion aside from many genre reads. Its moral, ethical, and psychological threads provide solid insights into the changing perspectives of all the characters involved in building and preserving lives in this environment. 

Gunfire and battles juxtapose nicely with these revelations, which are replete in the kinds of descriptions that flush out the characterization, enhancing their believability and logical growth: "What little faith Danner had managed to keep until now evaporated into the air, replaced by a budding rage that no lawman should possess." 

From brave women who become heroines and examples to others to men who confront town trouble as the politics and survival tactics of individuals change, Red River Reunion is a solidly compelling Western. It engages with swift action supported by strong psychological tension and social inspection, and is highly recommended for Western readers looking for in-depth representations of different forms of frontier survival and evolution. 

Red River Reunion

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The Road to Sugar Loaf: A Suffragist's Story
Eric T. Reynolds
Hadley Rille Books
978-1-7350938-2-6         $14.50 Paper/$25.00 Hardcover

The Road to Sugar Loaf: A Suffragist's Story will appeal to readers of historical fiction about women's rights, following the life and politics of Midwest Suffragist Kathryn Wolfe from 1894 to 1920 as she tackles the impossible obstacles women faced at the time, over the right to vote. 

The timely release of this book, as American voters face challenges and questions about the system as a whole, should be noted. More than the singular fictional story of a woman's efforts, Eric T. Reynolds takes the time to focus on the local, statewide, and national Suffrage Movement's real-world actions and struggles, building a foundation for understanding the evolution of voter rights and women's efforts to change it. 

Published firsthand accounts by suffragists who capture actual events form the foundation for many of the fictionalized confrontations presented in Kathryn's story, which both brings it to life with a realistic overlay and enhances the story's viability as a reflection of the times. 

As Kathryn interacts with women around her, the politics of how and why women choose to become involved (or not) are also explored: "After a few minutes, she paused during her browsing. “I’m reconsidering Women’s Suffrage,” she said. “What is bringing you back around?” Kathryn said. “I am observing some people’s behavior against Suffrage, some of it for questionable reasons.”  

Reynolds also excels at painting bigger pictures of the times, and the place women's suffrage efforts held in the larger scheme of world politics: "We’re supposed to be defending democracy,” said Kathryn, “but we don’t have democracy in our own country.” “True,” said Claire. “I’m worried the war news is overshadowing the Women’s Suffrage Amendment reintroduced in Senate a couple of days ago by Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin of Montana. We must keep up the pressure on the President and Congress.” 

The result is a fine blend of literary inspection, historical fact, and emotional connections that brings the times and their issues and influences to life. As readers examine Kathryn's world through her eyes, they learn new facts about the underlying motivations affecting choices on all sides. 

Historical novel readers who look for the drive of fictionalized action paired with the realistic history of events will find The Road to Sugar Loaf: A Suffragist's Story pragmatic and informative as it spins a compelling story of Kathryn's determination to find and change her place in the world. 

The Road to Sugar Loaf: A Suffragist's Story

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The Shadow War
Steven Cortinas
Independently Published
9798671735451             $13.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

The Shadow War is set in the turbulent world of 1969, when a group of genetically enhanced teens, 'Shadows', begin to confront and change the already-tenuous politics of the world in strange and violent new ways.  

Erin Escalante is at the heart of these changes, but is an unlikely heroine.  She's a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking teen with a reputation for trouble and a growing reluctance to fulfill her destiny as an assassin.   

Also meet her contemporary, Matthew Mutantes. The obsessive-compulsive son of a drug lord has grown into the top killer for Mexico's competing Latin X Program. He, too, has goals and visions beyond what he's been destined for.   

Mature teen to new adult readers will relish the confrontations, spicy personalities, and clashes between Shadows who are created to both heal themselves and rip apart the world around them.   

From family abuses of power in this Legacy Universe to memories of an idyllic childhood shattered by violence and trauma, Steven Cortinas crafts a compelling story. It looks at the world through teen eyes and the training of young killers who could evolve to become something more than destructive forces in the world.   

The rise of non-human species and the lure of alternate and more advanced worlds influence 24-year-old Matthew's changing role as he shines above his peers and attracts the attention and new assignments for Latin X. The Shadow War thus cultivates a changing scenario of good guys and bad guys that keeps readers on their toes.   

As teammates face battle and changes, Cortinas excels in crafting a world in which new adults navigate a series of personal, political, and social obstacles to gain the freedom they envision.   

Replete with bloodshed, confrontation, and personal growth, The Shadow War is a fast-paced series of confrontations that is highly recommended both as an addition to the Legacy Series and as a stand-alone story that holds the power to capture and retain attention to its unexpected conclusion.   

Mature teens and new adult readers of sci-fi and social issues are in for a treat. This story is strongly powered by well-built characters, constant confrontations, and the evolution of a Shadow War that draws everyone in and challenges this world's uncertain course. 

The Shadow War

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Nancy Scott
Independently Published
978-0-578-22224-0         $17.00

Shattered is a historical romance about a Marine veteran's PTSD struggles and his affection for Laine, who faces her own obstacles in life. It opens in 1952 Korea, where 21-year-old Matt is increasingly saddened by the role he is assigned to play in that country's war. 

The second chapter introduces Laine's life in Illinois, where she and her younger brother, Eddie, face changes tempered by their mother's death and their father’s emotional distance. "If you stay miserable about things you cannot change,” Helen, the Czech housekeeper, explains, “you will never find happiness in life.” 

Alternating chapters contrast these lives and how different perspectives evolve. Matt finds himself in a VA hospital in Southern California recovering from war wounds, feeling that he's left his war duties unfinished. They meet when Laine journeys to visit her cousin, Marcy, in Florida, while Matt makes the trip for different reasons. 

Reflections on war's lasting impact permeate their developing relationship: "Once these guys have been in Korea, they grow up fast. Age doesn’t mean anything.” Marcy tells Laine. “Being smart, staying alive is what counts.” How Matt and Laine grow with each other while accepting past influences on their relationship makes for an engrossing romance that follows each individual as well as their combined connections. 

As Matt faces his own anger and reactions at home to his experiences overseas and confronts his emotional dislocation, Laine, having had her fling with him, contemplates her high school boyfriend, Peter, and ponders Matt's inexplicable behavior at a New Year's Eve party. 

Matt's return into Laine's life brings with it a complexity and depth she's been longing for, along with the promise of a future each has avoided discussing, for different reasons. 

Nancy Scott does an outstanding job of depicting two young people whose different influences and lives at first belie the promise of connection and romance. There are no easy answers, no predictable trajectories, and no shallow characterizations in Shattered

High drama and startling confrontations are anticipated from the book's title, but the true challenges of this relationship lie not in one startling, world-changing event, but a series of reactions and experiences that lead Laine and Matt in different directions, from Florida to Idaho to Illinois, to the Northwoods in Wisconsin, and back again, before they finally join together. 

Scott uses the mercurial, fluid status of romance and love to spice a story that is quietly compelling and turbulent. Whether Matt and Laine are in the same place or miles apart, each continues to affect the other's life. 

The Korean War changed everything for many young people. Scott does a fine job of depicting these changes both at home and abroad in a romance replete with social, historical, and political changes. This story ably conveys how individuals survive, grow, and love. 

While Shattered is highly recommended for romance readers, its strength lies in its documentation of the recovery process and the challenges for individuals working not just on their relationship, but on their own courage and ability to dream, both independently and together.  


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Something in Madness
Ed Protzel
TouchPoint Press
978-1952816109            $16.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle 

Something in Madness, Book 3 of the DarkHorse Trilogy, is set in 1865 after the Civil War, when Durksen Hurst, a half-Seminole, and three black soldiers return to their Mississippi home, only to find that the battle for freedom has not yet ended in that region.  

Durksen Hurst built a plantation shared with slaves hiding in the swamp on land he swindled from a Chickasaw chief. Eventually forced to flee the town with his silent partners during the war, Durk and his band establish a colored regiment within the Union army, name it DarkHorse (after the bygone plantation), and eventually return home with the hope of resurrecting the plantation after the war. 

Their homecoming to Turkle, Mississippi and the newfound conflicts they face there form the foundation of Something in Madness, which illuminates a deadly truth: "The slaughter on the battlefield had come to an end, but a scourge more insidious and enduring now descended upon the shattered land." 

Whether he's describing unrequited love or battles, Protzel does a fine job of capturing the underlying nuances of interpersonal relationships against all kinds of backdrops: "So Durk’s back in Turkle! Her mood sank, hitting bottom faster than a boulder dropped into a shallow creek. Durk, the man she’d wanted from the first moment she’d seen him, who she’d pursued throughout Missouri, who’d cost her so much, even her freedom. Durk, who she must have but knew she never would — because of Antoinette." 

From brutal treatments and relationships between generals, employers, and ordinary men and women to the continuing conflict between those free and others only recently freed, even after the war, Protzel's story follows a delicate dance between personalities, options, and different ways of coping with conflict. 

Durk's struggle with rigged systems and the ongoing legacy of slavery pits him against people and systems alike as slavery continues to exert its insidious force against everyone despite the war's outcome and seeming conclusion. 

This aspect of ongoing battle and confrontation is a seldom-explored result of the Civil War. The story offers invaluable lessons on the real roots of modern racial strife which never entirely left American soil and not only lay in wait for future generations, but emerges from dormancy like a living legacy of ever-present adversity. 

The motivations, lives, perceptions, and challenged social structure of the South is deftly covered through the eyes and experiences of characters who juxtapose personal interests with bigger-picture thinking. 

The result is an engrossing story not just for historical fiction readers, but for anyone who would better understand the roots of modern racism and the choices and impact it brings to all sides of the equation.  

Highly recommended for civil war fiction readers and those with an interest in modern racial discord in America, Something in Madness stands out as a powerful saga of ongoing strife. 

Something in Madness

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The Sting of Love
Janet Graber
Wise Ink

978-1-63489-355-8         $18.00 

Georgina's visit to her elderly father in England, a veteran of World War II, becomes one of unexpected travel and trials when he asks her to accompany him to Italy, a country he once said he'd never visit again. The Sting of Love follows father and daughter to a nation which unexpectedly changed them both—and is still changing each in new ways. It blends a World War II aftermath saga with a story of growth and interpersonal relationships. 

Part of what makes The Sting of Love so persuasive is its unique blend of fictional characters with non-fiction events and history.  

A daughter who senses that her beloved father harbours a mystery, finds that her own secrets and complicated life intersects with his in an unexpectedly revealing way that changes them both. The guilt and family secrets both resonate with her present-day experience and mirror her world in an unforeseen way as each undertakes a journey that holds the potential to change everything. 

Captain James Drummond survived the war, but it wasn’t just the battlefield experience that changed him, as Georgina comes to find. It was the aftermath and the relationships that evolved during the peacetime mopping-up operations that created pieces of life unknown to loved ones, which return to haunt their old age. 

"Some secrets are best kept with the dead." But as they come to light, they hold powers beyond the grave, both for past and present-day generations. 

The Sting of Love features many twists and turns that are engagingly unexpected. As families are rejoined and new forces confront them, readers are treated to a blend of history, love story, and psychological probe that proves riveting to the end. 

The Sting of Love

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When the Wind Chimes
Mary Ting
Rosewind Books
978-1-64548-047-1         $14.95 Paperback/$4.99 ebook 

An invitation to spend Christmas with her family on Kauai arrives just in time for Kaitlyn Summers, who is recovering from heartbreak in Los Angeles. When the Wind Chimes follows this interlude during which Kaitlyn recovers, finds new life meaning, and encounters family and new friends just in time to make new connections in her life. 

Mary Ting does a fine job of creating an atmospheric first-person read that brings readers along on the journey to Hawaii and new opportunities: "Jingle Bells” blasted at Lihue airport on Kauai, only I wasn’t dashing through the snow. I was sprinting through the terminal with a carry-on duffle bag hiked over my shoulder and a smaller one clutched in my hand." 

From an unexpected job interview "an ocean away from home" to her increasing involvement in the fabric of not only Hawaii but her own life and future, Kate's recovery involves growth and new opportunities which come to life under Ting's hand. 

When the Wind Chimes excels because of this growth process. It's much a story of discovery and change as it is an evolving romance as Kate meets local celebrity Leonardo Medici and finds herself unexpectedly entranced. The sound of wind chimes that indicate each new possibility is a gentle device that reflects hope and expanded perceptions as Kate evolves. 

As she considers the things that truly make her happy in life and how they may be cultivated, Kate's journey involves her readers and encourages self-consideration. Her expanded experiences with men who include her new boss provide food for thought about the nature of her choices and perceptions: "If Lee, my boss, whom I barely knew, took the time to take care of me better than my ex-boyfriend, someone who had supposedly loved me, I shouldn’t have any problem finding someone better. Right?" 

When the Wind Chimes is easy reading: a journey of romance and self-examination which comes to life in the first person to bring readers to Hawaii and a young woman's recovery and growth. It is highly recommended for women who like their protagonists strong, flexible, and engaged in creating a new life. 

When the Wind Chimes

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Beverly Tiernan
Independently Published
978-1539121619            $15.63 Paper/$2.99 Kindle 

Yield opens with a flashback on life that implies illness or death as narrator Marley Cover considers her life decisions, the impact of marrying for other than true love, and the challenges she faces in the aftermath of meeting her ideal of romance (who is not her husband-to-be) on her wedding day. 

The Vietnam War's effects on America serve as the backdrop for her struggles, offering its own special brand of struggle over concepts of loyalty and dedication. The country mirrors Marley's confusion as things begin to fall apart and circumstances test her ability to remain true to the path she's chosen. 

What do you do when the right man shows up at your wedding to the wrong one? Marley was raised in an era during which women were taught to remain committed, often sacrificing happiness for a greater moral and ethical purpose. As Marley is tested emotionally and politically, she comes to question the roots of her decisions, upbringing, and her future: "I stared out at the lit houses across the lake and wondered about the people who lived in them. Were they happy? Had they ever been tempted? I thought about my own happiness and my own temptation and I wondered what was going to happen next. The unsteady stairway I was standing on, could lead to heaven or it could lead to hell. The trouble was, I didnt know which." 

As she considers the perils of war and those left behind, her evolving relationship with Warren and her husband Peter's absence in the military, and the confusing choice she'll face when Peter returns, readers follow not only Marley's special dilemmas but the changing sense of time and purpose that was America during the Vietnam War. 

An unexpected tragedy changes everything yet again, leading Marley in yet another direction that holds the power to both resolve the situation and muddy it further. 

Readers will find Yield a powerful story of social, political, and personal change that keeps readers thoroughly engrossed in Marley's dilemma and challenging times. 

The incorporation of politics, song lyrics, and quotes throughout capture these times in a story that is hard to put down, realistic, and especially notable in its very human protagonist who must choose between right and wrong approaches to life—and who doesn't always make the 'right' decision. This approach gives readers a compelling story highly recommended for anyone who would relive the 1950s-1970s era through the eyes of a young woman's changing world. 


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Reviewer's Choice

Aaron Nigel Smith & 1 World Chorus: Live in LA
Aaron Nigel Smith & 1 World Chorus
Aya World Productions/Tuff Gong International, Distributor 

Fans of reggae music are in for a treat with an album that was recorded during a live performance at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA. 

First of all, the reggae beat is supported by a children's chorus and vocals by Smith's own son Zion. This multi-voice production lends a depth and dimension to the usual reggae sound that imparts a rich community feel to the effort, one of the contentions and hearts of reggae music. 

From 'Reggae Ridmon', a dance party infused with the energy of the children's voices in 1 World Chorus and 'Zion Lion' that encourages all ages, to 'Everyone Loves to Dance' which presents "not a dance contest, but a joyful rhythm' that melds rock influences with driving rhythms, this upbeat, positive presentation is designed to attract a wider audience than most reggae artists appeal to. 

By infusing the classic reggae beats and sounds with rock and accessible rhythms, Aaron Nigel Smith creates a winning combination that expands his audience. 1 World Chorus expands the age of this market to younger listeners, juxtaposing dance rhythms with different songs such as 'Natty Dreadlocks', about the big hat and long hair often intrinsic to reggae artists. 

"If you really want to know why I let my hair grow/it was a promise I made a long time ago/to live a life of peace and unity..." 

One can imagine children gathered around, listening to this gentle explanation. One can imagine adults gathered around, as well, enjoying a diverse and lively disc that departs from often-typical political focus of reggae beats to embrace a wider world, more diverse voices and ages, and a rhythm that will prove compelling to all. 

Aaron Nigel Smith & 1 World Chorus: Live in LA

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Friends: Voices On The Gift Of Companionship
Amy Lou Jenkins,
Jack Walker Press
 B08DHDVYVC            $3.99 Kindle 

Friends: Voices On The Gift Of Companionship collects stories that explore the concept and enactment of friendships of varying types. It is an uplifting celebration of essays about the value of friendships. 

Submissions for this theme range from discussions of long-term friendships to short-term relationships and associations that held different values and perspectives for each friend. 

The diverse voices and experiences of these writers is nicely juxtaposed in a heartwarming collection that is invitingly filled with revealing personal messages: "...the death of my best friend isn’t the topic. I’m here to celebrate her life and to share the life she so graciously shared with me—the life that helped to save me. We became best friends in what felt like an instant. I loved her with my whole heart, and I know full well that she loved me with all of hers. We understood each other in a way no one else could. We were both sick. Hers was physical, and mine, mental, but we were both ill. And when you’re so sick and so young, people stray from you. Not because they are bad people, but because it is especially hard to watch a young person you love fade away." 

As the stories evolve, readers will relish the personal tones, touches, and explorations that consider the nature of friendship, its gifts and resiliency, and its lasting impact on all. 

Most of all, this inspirational read captures those often-fleeting moments of friendship that change and influence lives, even years later: "I can’t remember saying goodbye or feeling bad about leaving Carla or even missing her. In fact, I can’t remember which of us left Germany first. I recollect that we didn’t keep in touch. I don’t have a clue what happened to Carla, and writing this, I realize I’ve never wondered about it before." 

Perhaps that's the single most special strength of this series of diary-like descriptions of special relationships remembered—the ability to celebrate their ongoing impact on lives even after they have long passed. 

Readers looking for personal vignettes about friendship will find Friends: Voices On The Gift Of Companionship an outstanding key to understanding how relationships evolve, change, pass, and often come full circle to become even more valued as the years go by. 

Friends: Voices On The Gift Of Companionship

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Hola, Amigo: Songs of Friendship
Artist: 123 Andrés
Salsana Records (ASCAP) 

The group 123 Andrés represents the rollicking songs of Andres Salguero and Christina, who specialize in creating bilingual Spanish/English songs the entire family can enjoy. The catchy music CD Hola, Amigo: Songs of Friendship supports the previously-published children's board book, Hello Friend/Hola Amigo, adding a literary foundation to the Spanish and English songs for the very young. 

Hola, Amigo: Songs About Friendship is being released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this book, creating a children's music album of remastered versions of Hola, Amigo in Spanish and English, plus eight more bilingual songs that explore the theme of friendship. 

Classic Latin beats, horns, and simple bilingual language marks a presentation that kids and parents can readily enjoy together. That's the power of this album—reaching families with sounds and music that encourage not just friendship and understanding, but shared lively experiences. 

While Latin listeners will likely be the first audience for this family-oriented production, any English-speaking child learning Spanish will also find the music a very accessible way of learning not just a foreign language, but the cultural forces that it represents. 

From songs of celebration and encouragement to tunes like 'Cooperation', which hold bilingual embellishments against a country music-sounding backdrop, this diverse collection of creations expands the definitions of cross-cultural creations and Latin influences alike. It is very highly recommended listening for the entire family. 

Hola, Amigo: Songs of Friendship

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How to Get Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know
Don Sloan
Bunker Hill Press
ASIN: B08GL3M8QY            $7.95 Kindle

Anyone who has tried to get on disability for any reason well knows what a challenge it is to qualify for benefits. More so than most assistance programs, disability has been identified as having the most potential for abuse—and therefore, is one of the most challenging programs to understand and qualify for. 

Don Sloan's How to Get Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know offers a solution to successfully gaining benefits through this program. It does the hard footwork of covering the system and how it operates for newcomers who may have little clue about how to achieve their goals. 

It opens with a foundation series of chapters that define disability, discuss benefits, and help readers determine if they are eligible for the program. This in and of itself is a winning approach, because the law is quite specific about what constitutes the kinds of disability that qualify for benefits. 

It's essential that applicants properly prepare for first contact and understand the different responses that lead to winning approval for disability status. Again: there are very specific routines and approaches to this process that, without Don Sloan's book, would be overlooked or misunderstood by the typical applicant who holds little prior familiarity with the disability system. 

Under another hand, it would have been all too easy for this book to end at this point. Perhaps the greatest asset to How to Get Disability Benefits lies in its wider-ranging coverage of the aftermath of placing an application, from an invaluable chapter on 'Making Ends Meet While Waiting' to a listing of 'Top 10 Disabilities' and discussions of how much one can receive from the disability program, and how long benefits typically last. 

Over the years, the complicated disability structure has become a quagmire of confusion. This often prevents legitimately disabled applicants from navigating the system enough to successfully gain what is owed to them. Don Sloan walks readers through any confusion, presenting sample experiences, letters, social welfare, and legal insights alike. These represent especially essential keys to navigating the waiting period, encouraging cultivating financial resources that can be tapped before benefits kick in. This approach sets this book apart from any other. 

The waiting periods, which can evolve into years and involve more than one period of time, are particularly insidious aspects of the disability system that Don Sloan navigates with specific insights and advice. 

How to Get Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know is a practical primer that should top the reading list of anyone newly disabled. It tiptoes through a minefield of potentially confusing routines and processes which will likely be alien to most new applicants, employing case histories, examples, and insights that successfully gain disability benefits. 

No other book on the market holds such specific, clear advice; and none include the practical considerations of income generation both on and off disability that are keys to long-term survival. How to Get Disability Benefits is very, very highly recommended as a key acquisition for applicants and reference, healthcare, and individual libraries alike. 

How to Get Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know

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Less Ego, More Soul: A Modern Reinvention Guide for Women
Janet Ioli
JI International
978-0578702056            $14.99

Less Ego, More Soul: A Modern Reinvention Guide for Women promises a 21-day program of transformation for women who want to revitalize their approaches to life to be more effective in both business and personal pursuits. The only prerequisite to the successful use of this book is a willingness to change and evolve.

The difference between this book and others about personal transformation is that it isn't just directed to the woman who has not made much of herself. Those who are successful in many arenas may still harbor feelings of discontent and restlessness on some levels, and more so than other books, Less Ego, More Soul appeals to this audience of achievers who remain frustrated and lost. 

Bigger-picture thinking about one's role and place in life is tackled in chapters which pinpoint the different kinds of 'masks' we all wear and how they can hide actual personas and desires. 

Feeling stuck? That's the perfect time to consider re-invention and the lessons in Less Ego, More Soul. Janet Ioli empowers readers by pointing out that "You have a wise self that resides inside of you." Tapping into the power and insights of this 'wise self' are part of the exercises that comprise this guide, which is designed to be pursued alone, without audience or outside guidance. 

Developing connections to this wiser persona moves readers away from the need for outside validation and into a world where new methods of self-communication and insight are cultivated. 

Women who have already done some of this kind of work receive the advice that: "When you learn to pause, listen, and be patient with yourself without trying to control, you will slowly but surely realize that you can no longer operate the way you have been operating thus far. What worked for you in the past is not what will work to keep you grounded and connected to your inner wise self." 

The clear, inviting directions for guided meditations and insights teach not only how to connect with inner self and its messages, but how to apply this newfound wisdom: "The answers to these questions are your result from your second week of Guided Soul Search Sessions. Sit with them. Go inside yourself and really feel the answers. Find that place of inner knowing and let your pen do the rest. Trust that you already know the answers to these questions. You do. Now, hold fast to these answers. You are ready to define who you are becoming beyond the ego mask in the last week of your guided soul searching." 

Women who have been part of this process already well know the value of self-realization and improvement, but Ioli cements details not just about the work, but its lasting impact: "Being true to your wiser self doesn’t mean you throw out the practical considerations of making a living. It means that you are conscious of your why. WHY are you doing the things you do? What bigger part of yourself are you honoring as you do what you do? What higher commitments are you operating in service of, beyond your own ego self?" 

A large audience, from those already familiar with new age self-help routines to aspiring and successful businesswomen, needs this message and its exceptionally clear steps that promise to lead to success. 

Less Ego, More Soul: A Modern Reinvention Guide for Women

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The Little Handbook for Navigationally Challenged Cidiots
D.C.Head, G. Head, Ken Head, S.V. Head
Independently Published
Paperback: $8.99/Kindle: $2.99 

Drivers who want a hilarious spoof on driving, cars, and rules of the road should consider The Little Handbook for Navigationally Challenged Cidiots one of the funniest books on the humor market. It provides a close observation of drivers who are less than adept at the art of getting behind the wheel, and causes laughter even before the story is narrated, starting with a 'Table of Complaints' (nee 'Table of Contents') that features such headings as 'The Shoulder: I Mean…the Passing Lane' and 'Lights and Gadgets: Use’m Already!!' 

Hundreds of driving offenses are covered with a tongue-and-cheek observation of 'cidiots' who flaunt the rules. There are lists of typical types, alongside personal case history observations of the flagrant offenses: "The In-Your-Face Shoulder Pass: So my friend Johnny and I are sitting in stand-still traffic on a major freeway. All of a sudden we notice the increasing number of shoulder jumpers whizzing by our vehicle just to squeeze in front of the twenty cars ahead of us. So Johnny gets tired of this blatant violation of the law and steps outs, grabs a nearby construction barrel and plants it in the middle of the shoulder to prevent this rudeness from continuing. Just as he hops back in our vehicle, I noticed the most peculiar thing….instead of preventing the shoulder jumpers from carrying out their violation, the barrel placement has only encouraged them to become more creative. So now Johnny and I just sit with our mouths open as we watch the shoulder jumpers drive slightly up the hill and around the barrel so that they can continue to either exit the freeway or bully the drivers ahead of us." 

From 'Driving Under the Influence of Dummies' to parking snafus and 'snipers', this collection of driver observations requires only that the reader be an adult driver. This audience will find it easy to recognize the violators and their modus operandi for getting ahead and breaking the rules of the road. 

All drivers should read this fun book. It gives food for thought about offenses and approaches to driving while providing laugh-out-loud moments firmly based on driving realities. 

The Little Handbook for Navigationally Challenged Cidiots

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Savoring the Camino de Santiago
Julie Gianelloni Connor
Bayou City Press, LLC
Paperback: 978-1-951-331-01-6           $17.99
Ebook: 978-1-951331-00-9                   $  9.99 

Travelers interested in pilgrimages and memoirs will find Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It's the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike an unusual armchair journey in several ways. 

First, it wasn't written in a specific period of time, but evolved over different writing methods and time frames, from blog posts produced while on the Camino; back home (for Julie Gianelloni Connor, 'home' is Houston); and years later. This reinforces the feel that this particular account is a journey with lasting memories and impact, not the fleeting, momentary experiences of a limited period of time. 

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage destination. And if you don't know the difference between 'travel destination' and 'pilgrimage', this is the place to find out. 

The title holds one hint of this different approach as it chooses the descriptor 'savoring' over the less powerful, more general 'traveling'. The goal in writing this account was not just to offer a "you are there" experience of every step, but to provide a bigger-picture perspective on the lasting impact of a choice to walk the Camino. Connor succeeds in meeting her goal in a story that is powerfully written, capturing adversity and revelation alike. 

Her descriptions blend personal experience with history and cultural, social, and travel observations: "Puente La Reina (The Queens’s Bridge) has graced this hamlet since the 12th century. The guide books say that historians are not sure which of two queens had it built. What? If a king had built it, there would be no doubts about which king. But let me not get off on that particular hobbyhorse. How many millions of pilgrims’ feet have traversed these stones? What a timeless, serene, and beautiful image it is for this town." 

Black and white photos and images liberally pepper the book, bringing these experiences to life, but Connor's descriptions hold the meat of the story, recounting each stop, town, and the personal and spiritual growth that they introduced. 

Some may wish for more of a spiritual emphasis than is provided. This is not a spiritual story per se, but a pilgrimage that embraces the impact of different locales and churches, museums, and towns and cities along the Camino. 

The difference between being a pilgrim versus a tourist is clearly outlined (you need to read Savoring the Camino de Santiago to enjoy the full extent of this difference). As Connor and her family explore, they invite readers to join them through this book. 

Those who want a satisfying blend of spiritual and travel revelations which use the Camino as a road to understanding and enlightenment on many levels will find Savoring the Camino de Santiago the perfect item of choice. It covers the emotions, reactions, and insights of a pilgrim who cultivates a slower approach to viewing the world than most travel accounts offer. 

More importantly, it takes the 'you are there' feel to another level. It is especially highly recommended for fellow pilgrims, either armchair travelers or destination-oriented, who would take the slower, more reasoned approach to discovery. 

Savoring the Camino de Santiago

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Tales from an Odd Mind
Nom D. Plume
Nom D. Plume Enterprises
Paperback: 978-1-7348864-0-5            $9.99
Ebook: 978-1-7348864-2-9                   $3.99 

Short story mysteries and poems holding elements of the supernatural and odd ironies permeate the anonymous author Nom D. Plume's Tales from an Odd Mind, the item of choice for those who like their reading compellingly eerie and thought-provoking. 

There are many unusual facets to this collection. The first section contains uncompleted short stories, for example. The Introduction is written in the first-person, by Death. As for the stories themselves, they run the gamut in subject and atmosphere. 

Take 'A Closet Full of Killer Robots', for one example. This uncompleted tale in the first chapter centers on the mental patients of 'Sol Lotus', an institution which harbors a dark secret in the labyrinth of tunnels underneath New York City. 

When Silver stumbles upon rows of robots in the depths of a basement, he realizes he's been purposely directed to a secret that could change everything. 

The conclusion to this very short piece is both inviting and puzzling, leading readers to speculate about the next steps for both Silver and Sol Lotus. 

The second section, 'We Few Old Souls', is described as "A quintet of tales of several young people who find each other, time after time."  These pieces hold no titles, and introduce various young characters whose interpersonal relationships and encounters are mercurial and challenging. The piece depicting Rebel and how they (yes, 'they') react to hospital settings, dreams of war and slaughter, and the truth about a body which houses countless souls is engrossing and challenging, all in one: "“We-–we’re connected somehow. Our souls are bound together and every time the last of us dies we start to be reborn, not all at once but we start. And every time we find each other, across continents and across oceans because we have to.”   

The third mixed section of poetry and prose comes with the whimsical caution that they hold "No rhymes, some reason". Here, you'll find such works as 'The Night Belongs to Us', a brooding masterpiece celebrating night and dark influences: "Fields rustling in the breeze/Storm clouds lazily rolling/across the endless expanse of sky, stars peek out between them/Are all for us/The day’s humidity has stayed but not the ugly heat/For the sun has birthed fireflies/A million stars flickering up from the damp grass to join the clouds and stars above/All for us..." 

What unifies this collection is a sense of the macabre, strange wonder, and edgy realizations of the extraordinary living alongside seemingly ordinary life scenarios. 

From its uncompleted tales (which, surprisingly, seem complete even given their cliffhanger stops) to its exploration of unique connections between people and its hard-hitting, diverse poetry, each section is cemented by large black and white images that also give food for thought. 

This collection of odd tales and poems of imagination, mystery, wonder, and eerie settings is highly recommended for readers who want to be surprised and engaged on a more intellectual, literary level than most eerie works. 

It promises a set of experiences that linger in the mind longer after their reading, juxtaposing nightmares with intriguing possibilities and revelations that are anything but predictable. 

Tales from an Odd Mind

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Young Adult/Childrens

D.R. Mattox
Warren Publishing
978-1-7353023-5-5         $15.95 

Ko and Aileen don't anticipate anything more than a quiet visit to Stono Beach when they begin their day, but when they are kidnapped and taken to the Aphotic, a hidden layer of the universe, everything changes. 

Kids ages 10-12 will find much to like about this fantasy as Ko and Aileen find not only the boundaries of their world challenged, but their role in it. 

D.R. Mattox uses the first person narrator Ko to capture this world and his relationship to it and his sister. This lends an observational immediacy to the tone and experiences which draws in young readers; especially since Ko is much older than his sibling and holds rationales and insights that come with the wisdom of age: "Aileen was nine years old, six years my junior, and beautiful. It was obvious she would one day be a very pretty woman. However, her current beauty was less about appearance and more about her being. She was innocent, glowed with youth, and concerned herself only with the next adventure or game. Society had no hold on her yet, as it had nothing to offer that could garner the attention of her blue eyes." 

His ability to perceive possible futures and scenarios in present-day incarnations and experience gives Aphotic such a deliciously analytical tone, yet keeps its experiences in logical sync with its young protagonists.

As events and perspectives move from Ko and Aileen to Sam, Joan, encounters with the Light Reaper's possibilities, and more, readers are led into a full-fledged fantasy that holds a quest, a challenge, and many battles. 

Mattox moves from the first person to a third person narrative, but by then young readers are thoroughly immersed in the situations, perspectives, and struggles of a myriad of characters. 

As various prisoners of the Aphotic search for a way out, the story is reminiscent of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, but with a broader cast of would-be heroes and children who struggle to make sense of this new world and their place in it. 

The safety of a galaxy lies in these young hands and the choices they face to preserve it. Middle grade and older readers with a special interest in fantasy quests will find Aphotic a marvelous saga of courage, self-resilience, and change. 


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Chant and Crown
Jordan McMakin
Canterwine Press
Paperback:  978-0-9764184-4-3   $15.99
Ebook: 978-0-9764184-5-0           $  9.99
Author website: 
Ordering link: 

Chant and Crown is a compelling fantasy that revolves around the magical Chants, who have been exiled and feared by The Kingdoms of Trestlewen for centuries. Two estranged princes targeted by the Chants find themselves on the same side, for once. They must join forces against an ancient enemy as the winds of war unite them in an uncertain, tenuous manner. 

Teens looking for a fantasy scenario that is focused as much on evolving sibling relationships as it is on world-changing confrontations and the rise of darkness will find Chant and Crown hard to put down, especially because its classic story of sibling interactions, growth, and adversity powers the overall themes of siege and transformation. 

Strong dialogue, fiery clashes with opposing forces (as well as those on the same side), and a blend of magic and military might keep readers engaged on several different levels: "Aylan grabbed the papers from Ezrick, still shaken and upset. Then seeing the top page his face fell. Ezrick thought he was going to cry again. “Shit. I was supposed to finish this for Lady Ghent by three. She needs it for the Scribe. But I promised Ghent I’d have the Council agenda organized! Then you woke up, and Driscoll kicked me out . . . I tried to focus, I tried to . . . but I was worried, all I could think about was . . . I think I’m losing my mind!” 

Perhaps the most inviting feature of this young adult fantasy, however, lies in the psychological descriptions Jordan McMakin incorporates into his story. These keep readers involved in each of the young princes' perspectives: "Aylan was stalling. Ezrick knew it. But he had to know Ezrick would ask this, otherwise why would Aylan have disclosed it. “I’m involved now, Aylan, and I deserve to know. You’re my source, and if you don’t tell me now, I’ll seek out answers on my own.”  He spoke dispassionately, every part of him tired. The emotional toll of the last few days had scraped Ezrick hollow." 

As Aylan becomes Ezrick's only source of information for survival and effective battle, belaying the threat of a father who surely will kill his sibling if he catches him, the evolving, complex relationships are part of what sets Chant and Crown apart from other fantasy tales of a kingdom threatened. 

The dichotomy of its internal and external battles and the politics and processes of family relationships contributes to a thoroughly engrossing saga. Chant and Crown is highly recommended for teen to new adult readers who will absorb not just clashes between magic and political forces, but the turmoil and uncertain connections between very different brothers. The siblings must learn to rely on each others' strengths to survive, only to find that their newly-forged connection instead destroy everything. 

The plot is especially recommended for its depth of psychological drama and exploration of entwined relationships, which contribute a sense of purpose and connection to the overall fantasy. 

Chant and Crown

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Dumpster Dogs
Ann Colberson Schiebert
Andrew Benzie Books
Print: 978-1-950562-21-3              $9.95
Ebook: 978-1-950562-30-5           $4.99 

Preteens and young adults in middle to high school grades who enjoy illustrated stories of friendship, adversity, and discovery will welcome both the story in Dumpster Dogs and Jack Varonin's colorful illustrations. These bring to life the tale of dog Riley, who lives under a dumpster and believes himself to be independent and strong when he is actually lonely and lost. 

Riley needs canine friends and even humans, but believes he needs nobody and has everything he needs to make him happy. Once, he had humans whom he loved, but they abandoned him. Now he has convinced himself that he doesn't need human love—only the uncertain circle of five fellow Dumpster Dogs who, like himself, know how to live on their own and make their own destiny. They are now his 'family.' 

Riley's life changes, though, when he meets Sophie and Emily and forms a bond with them against all the rules he and his friends have made for their lives: "He was amazed over the way his friends had excused his violation of the Dumpster Dog Club Rules! They were really, true friends, and he vowed he would never leave them behind if Emily invited him into her family." 

Will Riley risk everything he's built for an uncertain sense of home? Ann Colberson Schiebert injects thought-provoking passages throughout her story that will give dog-centered kids pause for thought about more than family, animal rescue issues, or a sense of place: "He had been a Dumpster Dog for so long he had become accustomed to his lifestyle and his freedom. No one told him what to do, and he liked it that way. He glanced over at Sophie. Would losing all his friends be worth it? As if she could read his mind, Sophie looked over at him. In a whisper she said, “Riley, if you don’t take a risk, you will never know if your life could be different, will you? You will be stuck in the past.” 

As Emily becomes involved with all the dogs and a Hatfields-and-McCoys style of conflict emerges, both Riley and Emily find their friendship tested, their ideas of home challenged, and their safety compromised in different ways. 

It's hard to easily peg the attraction of Dumpster Dogs. The illustrations would seem to make it a choice for advanced elementary to early middle grades, but the story line offers a complexity and satisfying insights that lend to its appeal to older readers. 

Audiences not too 'mature' for a peppering of lovely illustrations, who are interested in relationships between dogs, people, and family, as well as underlying issues of animal rescue and an avowed animal hater's perceptions of life, will find the subplots and issues of Dumpster Dogs makes for compelling, surprising reading. 

More than "just a dog story," this is a survey of life challenges and approaches to conflict resolution. It deserves a place on the reading lists of young people interested in more than just dogs. 

Dumpster Dogs

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The Firefly Warriors Club
Susan Count
Hastings Creations Group
Ebook: 9780997088397                $3.99
Paperback:  9780997088328        $8.99 

Middle grade readers interested in an ecology story of adventure, adversity, and mystery will find delightful this story of Texas boys who investigate the declining number of fireflies in The Firefly Warriors Club. 

The boys know fireflies are disappearing. The sparkling lights they see in the woods are a revelation, both about the fireflies and their natural history and the fact that they have become even more endangered. 

Twelve-year-old Davy's guide to this strange world is the Insect Field Guide. His cohort is 10 year old Anderson. And his latest discoveries aren't in the Field Guide, but inject adult challenges into his child's life of observation which, until now, hasn't been linked to action. 

In the opening pages, Davy is off to the best insect observation site he knows: his grandfather's Texas farm. Even before he goes, he's well aware that fireflies are vanishing, although his unconcerned father shrugs: "When I was a kid, I used to love catching fireflies.” Dad sounded wistful. “I’d love to catch some, but there are hardly any left.” Davy crushed an empty chip bag. “All kinds of insects are disappearing.” “I hadn’t thought about it, but I guess that’s right.” “Look at the windshield.” Davy pointed. “Looks fine.” “It should be splattered with insects. First insects disappear, then birds starve.” “They should eat more roaches. Cockroaches will rule the earth,” said Dad." 

As Davy contemplates creating a firefly habitat and faces the special challenge of preserving their environment against forces that would decimate it, young readers receive an ecological lesson couched in a story of peers who decide to move from learning and observation to taking charge of a seemingly-impossible project. 

Line drawings pepper the story and add visual embellishments to Davy's account. 

This fine tale works well on many levels. Characterization is well done, and the natural history is revealing, linking human and natural affairs and interests and Davy's own evolution in a compelling way. 

Middle grade readers are in for an informative treat with The Firefly Warriors Club! 

The Firefly Warriors Club

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Frankie and the Gift of Fantasy
Ruthy Ballard
Whipsmart Books
Paperback: 978-0-9978532-7-8            $12.95
Kindle: 978-0-9978532-8-5                   $  4.99
Epub:  978-0-9978532-9-2          

Frankie and the Gift of Fantasy is a middle grade read about a lucky young boy who lives in a lovely house by the sea in California. He lives in his own world of make-believe, frustrating parents who think he should ground himself in reality instead and develop ambitions that will lead him into a successful adulthood.

Despite their admonitions, Frankie persists in his fantasies while skating through life, until a crack in his bedroom ceiling transports him to a two-mooned planet called Urth, where he embarks on an adventure beyond even his wildest dreams.

The first thing to note about Frankie and the Gift of Fantasy is that it draws readers into the action with a personal touch that represents an unusual invitation to participate in Frankie's experiences: "...since he’d never missed a meal, he didn’t know what real hunger was like, so he felt sorry for himself, spinning a story that a forest that had felt so wonderfully homey at first had unfairly betrayed him by failing to provide dinner at the expected hour. You can decide at this point whether you want to give Frankie the peanut butter sandwiches you brought with you into this chapter. But I advise against it, because someone else in this story will soon need them much more than well-fed Frankie, and you may wish to give them to her instead." 

The second strength to his story is also evident early in the tale. Its Ruthy Ballard's ability to create compelling, unusual, humorous descriptions that provide kids with visual embellishments worth laughing over: "An eerie kind of twilight gradually took the stars away as he sat among the purple fruit, staring at the sky and fantasizing about food. The constellation that had looked like a pile of steaming spaghetti topped with a healthy dose of grated Romano cheese, blinked out. The circle of stars shaped like a gooey pizza faded away. And in the east… well, what was in the east requires its own paragraph to describe." 

As Frankie's story unfolds, preteens receive an engrossing adventure that takes Frankie's proclivity for participating in the unbelievable to new levels. In this world, Frankie truly comes into his own strengths. 

Meanwhile, back on Earth, his parents are anguished over his disappearance, and an innocent man has been arrested in the matter. Frankie's absence is making as much of an impact on his former life as his presence does in this strange new world. 

Kids receive a thoroughly engrossing story powered by these descriptions, dilemmas on all sides, a sense of humor, and an adventure beyond even Frankie's ability to imagine. 

Other quest and confrontation stories proceed in predictable manners. Not Frankie and the Gift of Fantasy. This lends it a unique, powerful voice that makes for a standout in the genre of children's fantasy. The epic adventure flushes out Frankie and his family's concerns with the dilemmas of alien peoples who have as much at stake in Frankie's presence or absence as do his family back home. 

Unpredictable, fun, and action-packed, Frankie and the Gift of Fantasy is hard to put down. It's highly recommended beyond the advanced elementary to middle grade readers it is likely to reach. 

Frankie and the Gift of Fantasy

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Jiggs, The Beginning
Murray M. Smith
Paperback: 978-1-64718-765-1    $14.95
Hardcover: 978-1-64718-765-1     $24.95
Ordering Information: Ingram, B&N, Amazon

Ages 2 and older will appreciate this picture book story of Jiggs, a cat who lived in the Pigeon Point lighthouse. 

Lovely artistic drawings by Jonathon Wilson and hand paintings by Darice Machel McGuire highlight Murray M. Smith's tale of a kitty named Jiggsy who was born with his siblings under the lighthouse porch. 

When they become old enough to leave their box, they receive a stern warning from Mom about the dangers of the world and a nearby dark cave. The kittens promise to stay safe, but curiosity dominates, and Jiggsy decides to investigate the dark cave in a safe way that ultimately lands him in trouble. 

Kids who like cats, playful drawings, and stories about animals will enjoy this story about caution and curiosity. 

Parental read-aloud assistance will be required for youngsters who don't read at the paragraph level yet, but the delightful story will attract all ages. 

Lessons about safety, kindness, friendships, and caution create a compelling saga that is playful and serious at the same time: perfect for parents who want to teach their kids a combined sense of wonder and caution about exploring their world. 

Jiggs, The Beginning

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Kits and Cubbyholes
Loralee Evans
Independently Published

Twelve-year-old Will leads a good life. He's found work and a home in Mister Wilberforce’s house, a friend in eleven-year-old Nellie, who is teaching him to spell words, and leads a fine life, for an orphan, after living alone on the streets of London. 

His memories of the day he met Mister Wilberforce, when everything changed, feel murky and incomplete, however. When he encounters strange little animals that appear to be speaking to one another, some pieces of the puzzle of his life begin to fall into place. 

As Will stumbles into an adventure that includes a group of disparate children and a fireplace that leads him into another world, young readers are treated to a story that is peppered with observations about social and cultural relationships and different forms of adversity: "Will found himself smiling hesitantly. Jax appeared to be the leader of this group of friends, but he didn’t seem domineering. Despite their different races, the children treated each other like equals. Was that how life was in America? But it couldn’t be so. America was terribly dependent upon slavery from all that Will understood. This comfortable amity between these children befuddled Will, yet at the same time, it pleased him." 

Will's search for the portal that will lead him back home isn't the only purpose of this story. The tale moves from raccoons and time travel to encounters with historical figures and kids charged with finding their way home under impossible circumstances that challenge their perceptions of the world. 

Loralee Evans crafts a fine adventure in Kits and Cubbyholes that moves from a boy's singular good fortune in a revised life to his ability to take charge of his own future. 

Middle grade readers will find the characterization well-done, the dialogue and dialect particularly convincing and believable, and the adventure portion nicely paced. It's not too fast, but is captivating, as Will participates in an adventure with newfound friends from the 21st century and confronts the mystery of what his future will bring. 

Kits and Cubbyholes

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Maddy's Sunflower
Toshi Ikagawa and MJ Brooks
Picket Press
9780978786434      $7.89 Paper/$3.39 Kindle

When Maddy's grandmother gives her the gift of a sunflower seed, something special grows from it in Maddy's Sunflower, a picture book story that will be enjoyed by children who like flowers as well as parents and teachers who wish to introduce the very young to gardening concepts. 

Colorful acrylic paintings by Toshi Ikagawa enliven the story of Maddy's first seedling and flower bed project. Maddy delights in her project as her sunflower grows taller than she, but when problems arise, it's her wise grandmother who holds answers. Underlying themes of change and loss also provide read-aloud adults with further discussion material, backed by lovely colorful drawings throughout. 

Early readers will appreciate this project-oriented introduction which holds introductory keys to understanding science, nature, and basic gardening. Each page links Maddy's experience and lessons to a celebratory feel of fun, inviting kids to contemplate creating their own flower gardens. 

Parents and educators looking for a positive, uplifting story that encourages the very young to undertake an easy project will take pleasure in the story of Maddy's delight in her sunflower and her newfound understanding of plants in general. Maddy's Sunflower is highly recommended as a basic primer on the subject, even though Maddy's experience is presented as an enthusiastic fictional experience. The book is also available in Spanish as El Girasol de Maddy. 

Maddy's Sunflower

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Mommy, I Need My Wheels
Jeanne Fortune
5Ms Publishing
Hardcover English: $17.99  978-1735092805     $17.99 
Hardcover Haitian Creole: 978-1735092812      $17.99
Paperback English: 978-1735092836                  $12.99 
Kindle: $3.99 

Mommy, I Need My Wheels, available in both English and Haitian Creole, focuses on a big event in a child's life: when bicycle training wheels are removed. In this case, young Eddy thinks he can't ride his bike without them. His challenge is to learn otherwise. 

Illustrations by Blueberry Illustrations add realistic and color-infused life to every page as Jeanne Fortune explores Eddy's reluctance to ride his bike without support. 

His wise mother advocates for his independence, but Eddy is worried he'll fall without them, and keeps insisting that their absence may preclude future bike rides. 

He's not alone, however. His mother and father are committed to helping. Family scenes, from mealtime to bedtime, supplement these riding efforts to create a warm vision of a supportive family atmosphere. 

Despite all their encouragement, Fortune does not provide easy or quick solutions to Eddy's dilemmas. The boy has much to overcome, even with help, before he can call bike riding an unassisted success. 

This realistic story of facing obstacles, failing, and trying again and again will delight read-aloud parents and children with its inviting, realistic, educational story. The multicultural family environment and specific story of a struggle many children will readily understand makes this a recommended read-aloud book which uses bright, compelling pictures and a warm story of achievement and adversity to make a point. 

Mommy, I Need My Wheels is highly recommended reading for beginning picture book readers and read-aloud parents alike, who look for stories of courage and independence to serve as life lessons for the very young.

Mommy, I Need My Wheels

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The Rounders and the Tallers
Matt Bell
Covenant Books, Inc.
Paperback: 978-1-64670-803-1    $13.95
Digital: 978-1-64670-804-8 

The Rounders and the Tallers gives picture book readers and read-aloud adults an intriguing lesson in diversity and acceptance as it outlines a world which houses two types of people: mean round folk and sad, thin ones. 

Surprisingly, the thing that makes the Rounders the meanest is the one thing that should bring pleasure to all: the beach. This is also the thing that makes the Tallers the saddest. 

Good reading skills or parental assistance for the younger readers will lend to enjoyment of this compelling story of how this world became so divided: "You see, before the Rounders became mean and the Tallers became sad, everyone was friendly and happy. And everyone went to the beach and was happy and friendly together. So many Rounders and so many Tallers went to the beach each day that soon the beach became very crowded. And as you may know, when people are crowded and stepping over each other and sitting in each other’s way, sometimes people get upset. And this is how the story begins." 

Surprisingly, and although it likely wasn't written for this purpose, this story becomes a parable for COVID times and new restrictions as the Rounders and the Tallers confront the evolution of rules designed to keep the Tallers from the place they love. 

As the years pass and rules proliferate and conditions worsen, where is the answer that can return joy to both groups? 

The whimsical, thought-provoking illustrations are perfect accompaniments to a story that poses a dilemma, traces the evolution of prejudice and repression over the years, and offers some surprising solutions that also contain insights about better living. 

What better story for this new age of COVID than one which teaches tolerance and win-win situations for all? The topics of exclusion and community growth and involvement will delight parents looking for discussion points for the very young, as well as picture book readers who harbor the skills to absorb multiple paragraphs of evocative description and detail. 

The Rounders and the Tallers is very highly recommended as a 'coming together' title that advocates understanding and revised thinking that embraces connection and shared joy in life's opportunities. 

The Rounders and the Tallers

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Signs in the Dark
Susan Miura
Vinspire Publishing
978-1-7341507-6-6         $13.99
Publisher's website:
Author's website: 

Haylie Summers is deaf. Music, thunder, and words are not part of her world. And yet, she acknowledges that her condition gives her abilities the ordinary person might deem a 'sixth sense'. And right now, this sense is sparking warnings and information that lead Haylie on a journey into danger. 

It's been two months since her father re-entered her life. She doesn't trust the permanence of his presence, since she's lived much of her life without him: "Ben thinks that’s an easy question. He waits for me to say “yes” because my father’s been “nice” for the past two months, but there’s about fourteen years of radio silence to consider. The occasional birthday or Christmas card only served as painful reminders that he walked out on me and mom when I was three. A girl can’t just let that go." 

Haylie is a fighter and a survivor. She'll need all these skills when she is kidnapped and a series of events place her in a whirlwind of danger. Is she on the road to human trafficking? When her almost-boyfriend Nathan Bolivia works to uncover the clues, he finds himself in just as much danger and powerless to prevent the inevitable. The perps, meanwhile, have a new problem in their quest for easy money that now feels quite complicated. 

Susan Miura does a fine job of moving from Haylie's perspective and insights to Nathan's determination to use all his skills to rescue her, highlight the plight of each as they face a threat not only from the kidnappers, but from Haylie's own uncommon abilities. 

She injects philosophical and spiritual reflections at various points in the story to add depth and contemplative insights to the plot: "I guess it’s true that God works in mysterious ways. Nothing about this relationship makes sense. Everything about us is different. And yet, we connect in ways that science can’t explain, and that the world may not understand. We were given the gift of each other, and that’s all we need to know." 

As surprises emerge about the real nature of Haylie's reality and life, readers are treated to a moving story of survival, recovery, and revised relationships that reveal the changes two teens experience after facing death. 

Young adults who choose Signs in the Dark for either its intrigue or its insights into a deaf girl's world are in for a wild ride in a multifaceted thriller that holds solid action and emotional revelations throughout. It's highly recommended for teens seeking relationship-driven action stories that incorporate a sense of purpose and growth within its drama, especially those who like unexpected stories of love, commitment, and adversity. 

Signs in the Dark

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Stan's Frightful Halloween
Sandra Sutter
Clear Fork Publishing
978-1950169382            $16.99

Stan's Frightful Halloween enjoys vividly colorful Halloween drawings by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne as it presents the unusual dilemma faced by a young werewolf who finds that Halloween frees him to be his authentic scary self on one special day a year. 

The problem arises when clumsy Stan injures himself before Halloween, and is forced to stay at home when other friends go out for candy and fun. He knows he can't keep up with the crowd in his usual way—but can he do something different? 

He thinks another group may be easier to keep up with, but soon discovers that the trappings of ghosts, mummies, and witches all come with their own special talents which he does not have. 

Things go awry and constantly thwart Stan's ability to scare people. And Halloween is almost over. 

This fun tale of a child's dilemma offers a different kind of Halloween story perfect for read-aloud and seasonal enjoyment. The unexpected conclusion is hilarious and thought-provoking, reinforcing the feel of friendship and holiday fun. 

Stan's Frightful Halloween

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The Weed That Woke Christmas
Alayne Kay Christian
Blue Whale Press/Clear Fork Publishing
Hardcover: 978-0-9814938-1-7     $16.99
Paperback: 978-0-9814938-2-4    $10.99 

The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed provides picture book readers ages 4-8 with the fun story of a weed that grows from a seed in the crack of urban pavement. He's unnoticed by the busy city people rushing by, until one little girl takes the time to decorate him for the Christmas season. 

For the first time, people begin to notice the weed. As they bring other holiday embellishments for this weedy shrub that celebrate the season, young readers receive a gentle story of a movement that blossoms around need, wealth, and giving and taking. 

Kids and their read-aloud parents will delight in this concept of sharing. The act sparks further and greater neighborhood interactions between people who were formerly isolated. Polina Gortman's paintings throughout are beautifully done and nicely compliment the appealing, positive story. 

The tale is fiction, but is based on a true story about a family in Toledo, Ohio who found an unusually tall weed in a traffic circle during Christmastime 2018 and decided to decorate it—an act that had unexpected results that rippled through the urban community. 

The fine message about holiday spirit makes for a perfect read for parents seeking stories that encourage kids to feel empowered to begin changes that cross age and economic barriers. The Weed That Woke Christmas is a lovely, positive, much-needed story for modern times. 

The Weed That Woke Christmas

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Where Are Shayla’s Socks?
Natalie McNee & Michael Dotsikas
Porch Time Publishing

Where Are Shayla’s Socks?, written by Michael Dotsikas and Natalie McNee and illustrated by Morgan Spicer, follows the aftermath of a young girl's restless night, when the socks she goes to bed with unexpectedly vanish. 

As she joins her mother in searching for and considering the possibilities of missing socks, young readers and their read-aloud parents are treated to a whimsical, fun romp through fantasy as Shayla and her mother confront a "profound mystery" that will appeal to the very young. 

Action words peppered throughout consider the strange possibilities of the missing socks' alternate lives, and teach kids about sounds and fantasy possibilities as the sock hunt continues. 

Kids and parents receive a surprising fantasy revolving around the alternate lifestyle choices of socks before yet another twist in the plot is revealed. 

Story time and bedtime will become fun experiences for adults and kids alike, as this book provides its satisfying romp through sock antics and possibilities in a very highly recommended visual adventure. 

It should be noted that this is the first book in the Shayla series. These books support the Shayla Shares Foundation's purpose to bring literacy and books to disadvantaged and underserved communities around the world through a special gifting program. 

Where Are Shayla’s Socks?

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The Whizbang Machine: Royal Deception
Danielle A. Vann
Waldorf Publishing
ISBN: TBA             Price: TBA 

Fans of the magical Whizbang Machine typewriter of prior books will relish the addition of another segment to the drama: Royal Deception. Readers start by attending the bleak funeral of narrator Elizabeth's mother, her Grandpa Jack beside her, as she faces the Whizbang machine's demands and her loss. 

Adversity and danger drive her and her Grandfather into another adventure even as the reluctant Elizabeth is tasked with solving problems her mother Laurel could not adequately resolve. 

Kids who enjoy stories of magic and family relationships will relish this latest Whizbang saga; especially if they've already absorbed its premise in the prior books. 

Danielle Vann cultivates a vivid blend of dialogue, action, and psychological self-inspection that brings the story to life: "Stop! I don’t want to see those things! I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to feel ever again! Let the memories die! Let my insides die!” My hands flew up, stabbing the twisting air. Hot breath filled my lungs as I pinched the bridge of my nose. The same alternative future I’d held on to, visualized time and time again, came into view. Grandpa Jack was grayer, wrinkled, hunched, and bent with age. My mother stood waving and smiling, untouched by the evil that pursues us." 

The Whizbang Machine serves as a provoker, entreating Elizabeth to step outside her life and its crushing pain to tackle bigger pictures. Those around her provide their own individual angst and perceptions, often challenging the Whizbang Machine's edicts. 

Once readers become used to the continual crashing and banging of the machine's admonitions and prophecies, these assume a compelling countenance as they inject drama, urgency, and information into Elizabeth's newfound life on the run. 

Royal Deception excels in many twists and turns as Elizabeth and those around her re-examine their roles, objectives, and perceptions of the truth and the purposes of their enemies. There are puzzles, magical interludes, and close encounters that keep everyone, including the reader, on their toes. 

Prior fans of the Whizbang adventures will relish the depth and complexity of this latest addition as Elizabeth continues to stretch the limits of her abilities and matures in unexpected ways. The changing relationship between herself and her grandfather are satisfying interpersonal strengths in a story that is impossible to predict and difficult to set aside. 

Middle grade readers and older, who like stories of magic and adversity, will relish this action-packed saga.

The Whizbang Machine: Royal Deception

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The Addicted Child: A Parent's Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse
Richard Capriola
Publisher: Bookbaby
978-1-09832-723-1 $3.99  

The Addicted Child is written for parents of adolescents who are abusing substances, and differs from most parental guides in that it doesn't cover prevention, but handling what already exists. 

The focus is on how these substances affect the child's brain and actions, how medical assessments and treatments work, and what is being offered by the best treatment programs. 

Parents are educated about what substances are likely to be available and abused, how to recognize symptoms, how to understand remedial approaches, and how to contrast different programs for maximum benefit. 

Most of all, they'll receive a guide based on the author's own practice working with addicted children, which results in many practical insights: "The majority of teens I treated used marijuana, usually multiple times a day. When asked why they used it, most said, “It helps my anxiety.” Their answer points to an important clue hidden below the surface of substance abuse: There could be an underlying reason why your child uses alcohol or drugs." 

Most hopeful of all are the passages which outline strategies that got through to teens reluctant to stop or confront their addiction: "Challenging these very intelligent teens to stop using a drug they believed helped their anxiety was an exercise in futility. Lecturing them was a waste of time, and telling them the drug was illegal meant nothing. They’d heard it all before. What did they respond to? Neuroscience education! After I explained how drugs like marijuana worked inside their developing brain, I had their attention—and it was a catalyst to change." 

The Addicted Child is based on Richard Capriola's experiences working with teens and treatment programs. It provides a satisfying synthesis of medical explanation and psychological understanding that assumes no prior knowledge in either discipline. 

Parents who have already been through often-futile approaches to reaching out to an addicted teen now have a guidebook that addresses many common experiences, obstacles, and paths to success in overcoming addition's allure. It's straightforward, not overly technical, and specific enough that concerned parents can easily consult it for answers. 

There is no single treatment that is right for everyone, and no single book that holds every answer. But Richard Capriola's The Addicted Child, more so than most, provides a starting point for parents to understand not just their teen's addiction and why it's happening, but how to offer them something better than drugs. 

The Addicted Child is very highly recommended as a mainstay reference for parents, health library, and general lending collections alike. 

The Addicted Child: A Parent's Guide to Adolescent Substance Abuse

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Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach
Kenneth Finn, MD, Editor
Print: 978-3-030-45967-3              $99.99
Ebook: 978-3-030-45968-0           $79.99 Buy/$16.99 Rent
Website:  Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach 

With the advent of marijuana's legalization in many states across America, the discussions of cannabis become more flavored with opinion over facts, on either side. This is why Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach is an essential tool for anyone with a specific interest in medical treatments and cannabis' role in them. It gathers evidence and studies surrounding the herb's uses and provides a reasoned, fact-supported survey that is key to any medical professional as well as consumers interested in the evidence supporting its various applications. 

Knowledge of the risks, effects, and short- and long-term influences of cannabis exposure has increased, especially in recent years, but until now, no single synthesis of the studies surrounding its medical use has been available. 

Dr. Kenneth Finn considers different medical disciplines, pinpoints areas containing data as well as those which lack information, and contrasts varying uses, effectiveness, and studies on cannabis. 

Key to these studies is an acknowledgement that limitations surrounding measurement abilities and data remain a significant issue in the ability to properly assess cannabis's role in treatment programs. 

The science surrounding such investigations has changed, thanks to the evolution of neurophysiology and better testing which, in turn, has led to a new wealth of information that needs to be properly examined, synthesized, and applied to refine treatments. 

The wide-ranging collection also includes many insights on social stigma, cultural differences between cannabis and other substances, the impacts of intentional and unintentional exposures (such as pediatrics), and studies on dose response effects on all ages. 

This is no casual pursuit for those pro or con about the subject, but a heavily footnoted reference and serious college-level medical treatise that seeks to do something few others on the subject achieve. It gathers verified data and places it in perspective of the medical community's different disciplines and approaches to integrating cannabis into their treatment options.   

Well-grounded in case studies and meta-analyses, clinicians receive a solid consideration of the latest data and research on cannabis, and can use this book to tailor their own approaches to the herb's possibilities and detriments. Those working in healthcare and legal fields alike can also refer to these studies for support in physician and consumer choices on many levels. 

Because much is pinpointed about the unknown or detrimental effects of cannabis, some might claim bias in the wealth of research being presented. But those used to evidence-based empirical studies well know that while bias may be built into some investigations, overall, it is accounted for in medical examinations and studies; especially in this book, which mentions when limited data indicates that a proper decision or conclusion can't be reached. 

The result is a solid collection of studies and evidence that will appeal to professionals, college-level students, clinicians, and anyone interested in cannabis applications, research, potentials, and proven detriments. 

Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach

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The Gift Within
Rosemary Baron
Layer Publishing
978-1-7348251-3-8                $15.99

The Gift Within: 10 Lessons of Spiritual Awakening and the End of Life from a Trauma Center Chaplain represents a gift in and of itself. It comes from a woman who serves as chaplain on a palliative care team in a large urban hospital. Her personal reflection on her work gives readers an important understanding about the chaplain's unique role, which is rarely talked about in the literature. 

Ten different lessons illustrate the varying styles and approaches of assisting those with life-threatening illness. They open with an overview of chaplain training and perspectives, but move quickly into Rosemary Baron's background and the experiences that gave her a special edge, making her a perfect candidate for the job: "My life’s experience and work prepared me for daily chaplain encounters. My faith is integral to my development and life...International living, traveling, and studying enriched my life and prepared me for the cross-cultural experiences of chaplain work." 

As she helps patients and families, readers are treated to inspiring portraits of her individual and bigger-picture thinking about the spiritual dimension in their lives, of both the patients and their families. 

The author has a keen ability to bring alive the moment-by-moment encounters as she is present at the bedside of each patient. These vividly reveal the chaplain’s humanity as a comfort to those in a health crisis. "My last visit with Michael was just after his doctor told him there was nothing more to be done for him except to keep him comfortable. He was crying and I wiped his tears.” 

The Gift Within is highly recommended for anyone interested health crises that spark spiritual awakening. 

The Gift Within

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Tolu’ A. Akinyemi
The Roaring Lion Newcastle
978-1-913636-06-7                $2.99 

Poetry readers interested in works that make a passionate plea for social justice and a more positive Black image and power will appreciate the works in Black#Inferior, a poetry collection that is presented in two parts: linked poems exploring Blackness and the different issues it attracts; and more general life themes affecting Black lives. 

Tolu' Akinyemi's passion is evident in works written to Black people which entreat them to develop self-respect, self-love, and power: "I wish you can rise above the tides of hate,/and the contraptions of oppression./I wish you can see through the dawning of each day/that you’re black and unique." 

His use of free verse means there are no artificial limits or constructs to the cadence of his writing, translating to poems that are far more accessible to non-poets and ordinary readers than the usual intellectualism associated with poetic efforts. 

In addition, Akinyemi employs a steady hand and heart to capturing Black lives in various nuances, from political and social arenas to personal experience: "Equality is a forgotten child. The blood of the innocents/soil the World. Racial Injustice walks tall,/the graves of our ancestors quake in anguish/at this perpetual ignominy." 

This juxtaposition of the personal and the political makes Black#Inferior a particularly important read. It holds a compelling, accessible message to the Black community in the form of hard-hitting poems which offer emotional observations of the modern state of Black minds and societies around the world. 

Poetry readers interested in the fusion of literary ability and social inspection will appreciate the hard-hitting blend of both in Black#Inferior, which is recommended reading for a wide audience, especially students of Black experience. 


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The Blue Collar Blues and Other Stories
Bob Stockton
Gatekeeper Press
Paperback-$15.00, E-Book-$4.99 (e-book available 10/4/2020, may be pre-ordered.

The Blue Collar Blues and Other Stories is an anthology of forty-six works that Bob Stockton published over the decade, organized by theme. 

The first section, 'The Blue Collar Blues', revolves around a young boy's experiences in a working-class neighborhood. 

The second section (the most diverse in subject) offers short, independent pieces on a range of subjects, from autobiographical vignettes to comments on life. Young Navy sailors of the past take the stage in the third part, while real-life biographical stories from the Navy comprise the fourth and final section of the collection. 

Stockton excels in assembling a potpourri of flavors and perspectives in his stories. 'A Man Who Lost His Wife' is about a man who attends a conference alone, finds himself hosting an inebriated stranger at his table, and learns about how he lost his wife, making a connection through a story that goes beyond historical tours and lectures. The nautical romp 'Captain Tuna', set in Norfolk, Virginia and at sea, depicts a young Navy man who inadvertently goes AWOL, facing charges and problems with his submarine crewmates. These stories blend autobiography with slices of life observations both within and outside the military. 

Each tale excels in capturing a distinct, unique personality. Each holds many insights into jobs, psyches, and interpersonal interactions. Readers interested in Navy affairs will find Stockton takes the time to build descriptions of not just people, but the ships and subs that form the fleets: "Throughout the summer of 1960 Barbel stood out as the only “teardrop” hull design at Key West. The local “boats,” as submarines were called by their crews, were all converted World War II design “fleet boats” that had been modernized for a more streamlined appearance. These modernized “Guppy” boats made up the entire Submarine Squadron 12 force, along with the submarine tender USS Bushnell and the submarine rescue vessel USS Petrel." 

These literary works are reflective, informative, intriguing pieces that will especially delight anyone with a degree of familiarity or experience with the Navy. Together, they form a unit of psychological and career inspection that captures quirky personalities, challenging situations, and the financial, social, and psychological decision-making that changes lives. 

Readers of military literature who look for rare blends of personal and professional inspection will find these stories grasp and reveal the pivot points of life both within and outside the Navy. The Blue Collar Blues and Other Stories is highly recommended reading for those who look for ordinary heroes in daily life. 

The Blue Collar Blues and Other Stories

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The Bubbe Meise and Other Stories
Aaron Zevy
Tumbleweed Press Inc.
9798675126095             $9.99 

The Bubbe Meise and Other Stories gathers a collection of short stories, both from the realities of Aaron Zevy's life and imagination, for a winning set of amusing, fun, thought-provoking reads. 

Some examples of the highlights include 'Corned Beef', written about "a person who is funnier than me", which opens with a confession that, under another storyteller's approach, the tale might have been very different: "Were anyone else writing this story, it would rightly be one of survival. It would be one of miracle. But that is not my story to tell. I don’t write those stories. Had I been at the parting of the Red Sea, my story would have been about finding a shekel on the beach. That would have been my miracle. Or about having to walk a mile down the beach so I could find somewhere to pee in private. So if you are looking for redemption or acts of God, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m just here to write this bit." 

As the story progresses, readers are treated to a surprising revelation that injects coronavirus into the mix in an unusual way. This doesn't seem funny—it feels like tragedy as a community comes together and tries to cope while in actuality is able to do relatively little to help or affect the deadly progression of a young man's health. 

When the prize of a corned beef sandwich enters this picture, the humor moves from macabre to edgy. This kind of laughter isn't for everyone. It's a blend of dig, irony, and life twists that injects humor into situations where it's unexpected and welcome, providing an ending one doesn't see coming. 

It should be noted that Aaron Zevy's voice is contemporary and raw. There will be cursing. There will be a gruff attention to life's serious situations and perspectives that turn them around into the arena of comedy. There will be moments that are not for everyone. And there are good-size black and white photos that introduce each new subject. 

However, this is a compelling collection that takes incidents and revelations from Zevy's daily life, throws in a handful of fantasy (and, no, readers won't always know which is which), and creates slices of life and irony most will find accessible and hilarious. 

Another example is 'Labradoodle', when Zevy makes an impulsive case to a neighbor for a non-breeder dog and finds himself inadvertently bequeathed with what he has expressed a wish for (not). For Zevy, serendipity doesn't lie in inherited circumstances. It lies in...lies. 

Each story holds an underlying lesson about life. Most of all, they teach a form of humor and observation that keeps readers engaged, laughing, and considering the slings and arrows of life and one's reaction to it. 

'Bubbe meise' is defined as "An "old wives tale". An untrue story." It's also the heart and soul of Zevy's fun tales, which are highly recommended for readers looking for humor and something eloquently different. 

The Bubbe Meise and Other Stories

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A Dream, An Imagination - Unfolded
Joy Joseph Antony
Joy Joseph Antony, Publisher
$4.58 Kindle/$9.72 Paperback 

A Dream, An Imagination - Unfolded collects poems from a Sri Lankan native who emigrated to Canada in 2010. This debut poetry collection reflects acts of perseverance, realizations, and dreams that imbibe daily life with a sense of purpose, history, and love "...a nature/that gave me awe and wow/a girl/who made me write a vow/a walk/that showed me the colors of life/a moment/that pierced my heart by knife..." 

These are poems which capture and reveal the delicate unfolding of life experiences, pairing them with perfect moments in which romance evolves and wandering becomes more purposeful: " know where you began/you have a destination in mind/you will be guided along the way/for some, the guide is society/for others, the guide is their heart/i had been the sailor of its many routes until i met you/in one of its crossroads..."

As family, best friends, love, and loss evolve, readers are carried into narrations that ebb and flow like a river of emotional experience. 

Line drawings throughout add visual embellishments to capture and solidify these poetic inspections. 

Readers of life experience and growth who look for free verse poems firmly rooted in emotional change will find A Dream, An Imagination - Unfolded a lovely collection that charts the course of a dream enhanced by imagination's colorful overlay of possibilities. 

Its words and whispers linger in the mind long after the journey is complete. 

A Dream, An Imagination - Unfolded

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Genealogy Lesson for the Laity
Cathryn Shea
Unsolicited Press
978-1-950730-52-0                $16.00 Paper/$5.99 Kindle
Publisher Website:

Genealogy Lesson for the Laity offers a spiritual-based literary collection that comments on social issues, prejudice, war, and peace with an eye to exploring contrasts in experience and perspective. 

Shea's collection opens with personal reflective touches on life, family, and connections, as in the legacy examined in 'Family Tree': "My family tree floats out there/part of so much flotsam,/ branches sheared off in the waves./I was born twenty miles from this/grave of shipwrecks, where gulls eye/ fertile tide pools from the rocks." 

Philosophy joins with nature and spiritual insights as the stories progress: "Today I am observing western pond turtles,/many orders beyond the paramecium./Desire for renewal hides beneath a carapace." 

From people-driven choices and perspectives while volunteering to a historical review essay, 'Horses in Dust and Ash', these poems and literary works are astute, thought-provoking examinations designed to connect and reflect on history, culture, generational experiences, and social issues alike. 

Its contrasts between hope, love, and processes of renewal are nicely done and easy to relate to, making Genealogy Lesson for the Laity a highly recommended contrast in various approaches to life. 

Genealogy Lesson for the Laity

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Minor Sketches and Reveries
Alberto Balengo
Personville Press
 B089GHYB87             $4.00 Kindle 

Don't expect the usual trappings of the short story in the pieces that comprise Minor Sketches and Reveries. As the title says, these works eschew the usual focus on progressive plot or character development in favor of a sketchbook method of capturing slices of life. This lends particularly well to writers and readers who want their descriptions succinct and their images and progressions as free-flowing as an internet search engine. The result is impressive and evocative, leaving an unexpected taste in the mouth. 

Minor Sketches and Reveries is a diverse collection that holds no unified theme other than its excellence and element of surprise. Take the opening piece, 'Dog Orientation', for example—a primer for the canine on the ironies and incongruities of living in a human world. Its observations are astute and intriguing: "At times humans let down their guard and play, but mostly they seem sullen and reserved. At night (and sometimes during the day), they will stare at large and screens, pondering images and sounds. There is no need for alarm; it just helps humans to relax. Even during meals humans do this same kind of staring, oblivious to the world around them. Humans can disappear for hours – or days. This shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Daily foraging for food and junk is a normal part of human behavior and something they prefer to do alone. Actually in the few instances where dogs are invited, they have been bored silly. As fun as an occasional car trip may be, it's never as fun as staying on familiar territory and knowing where the bones are buried." 

The sense of whimsy and fun about the dog's-eye view of human affairs and the role of the 'human caretakers of their estates' provides a fine introduction to other pieces which are more reflective and serious in nature, but often embedded with this same sense of ironic observation. 

'3 Fake Recommendation Letters', which Alberto Balengo wrote himself and included in an application to a school's creative writing program, are also whimsical in nature, reminiscent of Australian humorist David Thorne. The description of Balengo's life in New Spain and the ironies of its residents are hilarious: "New Spain, he said, was a wondrous place, especially in a settlement along the Gulf of Mexico. The natives spoke in slow thick drawls. Although residents had two healthy feet, instead of walking to places, they preferred traveling inside the bellies of mechanical contraptions they kept as pets. Whenever they went walking, their eyes looked down at small shiny objects they held in their hands. New Spain did have churches, but many people worshiped once a week before a small talking box named Seinfeld. Many New Spaniards in this settlement paid good money for memberships to “health clubs” in which they enjoyed the luxury of being able to lift heavy objects and run exhaustively in a circle at any hour they desired." 

Whether he's contemplating an odd form of travel, visiting family, or writing from a different perspective, these pieces are oddly compelling, fun sketches of life. They will engage and delight readers looking for succinct, humorous creative endeavors which fall somewhere between autobiography and life contemplation, but with a layer of added value in the thread of irony which runs through almost all the pieces. 

Gorgeous, fun illustrations by Brittany Bethurem represent the icing on the cake of a wonderful production. Whimsical and artistic, these color and black and white drawings are the perfect choice to bring this literary aspect to life. 

Minor Sketches and Reveries is a panacea for minds stressed by life's challenges. Anyone who seeks a literary series of sketches that delight with tongue-in-cheek reflections that often linger in the mind long after their initial reading will find it a satisfying choice. 

Minor Sketches and Reveries

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My Adversary Came Onto the Windowsill of Another Dream, As A Bluebird
Michele Rozga
Finishing Line Press
978-1-64662-250-4         $19.99

The very title this poetry collection, My Adversary Came Onto the Windowsill of Another Dream, As A Bluebird, reflects its promise to provide a collection unique in its metaphors and descriptions. It will delight those who like their free verse compelling and unique. 

Michele Rozga's voice is beautiful. Her evocative descriptions are refreshingly original: "In the childhood of my language/the trees seemed to walk along/at the side of the road where I/walked. My mouth could barely/move because the blood in my/tongue so often just sang its song/without my help. The gods were/many and they weren’t a big deal:/a firefly here and there, a snakeskin..." 

As readers move through the poems, it's evident that this is a poetic autobiography that charts people, places, travels, and emotions with an astute eye to detail, as in 'Helicopters over Cabbagetown': "It was a windy fire: the old cotton mill/burning so badly the bricks themselves,/in the heat mirage, seemed to run down/the sides of what they’d once been." 

Between its sense of place, self, past and present history, and life observations, My Adversary Came Onto the Windowsill of Another Dream, As A Bluebird assumes a lovely, ethereal stroll that brings to life everything it touches. 

Its questions, observations, and journeys will reach into the hearts and minds of poetry readers who like their writers fluid, descriptive, and well centered, making strong connections between observation, emotion, and life events. 

The images and language of My Adversary Came Onto the Windowsill of Another Dream, As A Bluebird is simply exquisite, making this a highly recommended piece for free verse readers of autobiography and life experience. 

My Adversary Came Onto the Windowsill of Another Dream, As A Bluebird

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Coming Home
Margaret Wolff
White Pearl Press
Paperback: 978-1-7355083-0-6    $16.95
Ebook: 978-1-7355083-1-3  

Coming Home: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda is recommended for new age and Eastern religion readers, who will find it a lovely survey of Paramahansa Yogananda and his followers. It's a personal exploration of faith and discovery that brings to life the experience of 'coming home' to a spiritual life, capturing this feeling through insights into the personal lives of Yogananda's disciples: "By the time you become familiar with Paramahansa Yogananda, you are mindful of the dissatisfaction and impermanence inherent in external experience. You may be wanting, confused, even disillusioned, adrift or mired by a sense of disconnection and loss. When you discover your true connection to Paramahansaji, you are astounded, as Andy was astounded, that someone knows everything about you—and loves you anyway." 

This personal connection between belief, spiritual leaders, and life experiences and choices sets Coming Home apart from many other books which present either autobiographical or analytical perspectives. 

Margaret Wolff blends this tone into her perceptions and discoveries for a different approach that will prove particularly welcoming to newcomers to Eastern spirituality, following her changes and revelations: "I’m the studious type, a book learner. I’m not a naturally devotional or social person. Even now, I much prefer to sit quietly in the back of the chapel because Master said he would return to the earth one day and sit in the back of the Temple. I want to be there when he comes. But the experience of being with other devotees added a new, heart-felt dimension to my spiritual life I hadn’t known existed." 

As Wolff seeks a Living Guru and incorporates lessons into her life perspective and objective, she reflects the kinds of lessons and insights that help her draw connections between daily experience and higher-level thinking. 

Her insights and reflections about this process carry readers beyond the teachings themselves and into their incarnation and lasting impact: "Master’s teachings provide a knowing that allows me to spiritually exhale, to say “Yes!” to the truth of who I am—who we all are—and to the Oneness behind all true religions." 

It's rare to find a new age or spiritual memoir that allows the reader to 'spiritually exhale'. Coming Home: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda offers an opportunity to breathe and discover, and is highly recommended reading for those who would understand what is involved in leading a spiritual lifestyle. 

Coming Home

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Divine Consciousness
Reena Kumarasingham
O-Books/John Hunt Publishing, Ltd.
978-1789044362            Paper: $23.95/ebook: $11.99 

Divine Consciousness – The Secret Story of James The Brother of Jesus, St Paul and The Early Christian Church asks if divine consciousness is in all of us, or just the Son of God. It does so through the early life and experiences of Paul and the evolution of early Christianity, following Paul's enlightenment, teachings, journeys, and impact on the nature and spread of Christianity. Later, the story shifts to James. 

As significant events are outlined and discussed, readers also receive contemporary discussions, reactions, and parables that illustrate the messages and impact of Jesus, past and present. 

This isn't a biographical sketch of early Biblical figures, nor an analysis of their messages, but a strong series of connections between basic spiritual lessons and modern lives. As such, the approach isn't linear, but is designed to reach into the heart and mind by connecting daily experience and modern perspective to traditional views of Christianity and faith. 

It should also be advised, for Christian readers, that the approaches include past life regression and secret stories that are part of the greater mythos of spiritual origins. 

Reena Kumarasingham is a regression therapist. This approach is reflected in a study which may be chosen by some for its scholarly-sounding analytical title, but which will soon bring readers into surprising realms as the regression technique is linked to new revelations about spiritual roots and their evolution. 

It's been two thousand years since the original teachings that formed the pillars of Christianity were formed. Think about how many changes have been made in the course of just a few decades as history is revised, reinterpreted, and often wrongly assigned values that deviate immensely from original intention. 

Now look at Divine Consciousness with this perspective in mind. Regression records and conversations power a new approach to understanding the divine and its incarnation over the centuries: "Mia: I was sent a messenger. A boat came and told of what was happening in Jerusalem. There was fighting. Fighting within the church. Jesus’ teachings and efforts are being twisted and convoluted. But even more, those who stayed back can’t agree on what to teach. What the principles are. There is a lot of infighting and a lot of pressure by the Sadducees and the Pharisees to impose their will on our Church. With the threat of the Romans, everyone is scared. There is a lot of chaos and confusion. I have to go. Reena: Who was leading the church in Jerusalem when you were in Britannia? Mia: There are several factions. Many people trying to say, “This is The Way.” Reena: So it was all a bit chaotic? Mia: Mmm. Also it is safer there now. From the Romans." 

Unlike any other discussion or book, Divine Consciousness is a standout from this perspective alone, providing invaluable spiritual and historical insights that will intrigue open-minded Christians and readers from other disciplines. Scholars who look for supportive notes will appreciate the heavily footnoted references throughout, as well as the extensive bibliography and appendix. 

The new age connection lends to a unique and original work: "Two thousand years ago marked the end of the Age of Aries, and the start of the Age of Pisces. It was a time of upheaval as the New Consciousness brought about change and challenged status quo. It was a time where cultural conditioning and belief systems were being challenged. It was during this time that Jesus, his teachings and his followers emerged with their controversial new teachings, which challenged the established powers of both the Roman and Jewish establishments. They challenged both the Jewish Laws and Ways of Being, as well as the rituals of polytheistic worship by the Romans. Those who wanted change were persecuted." 

'Open-minded' is a requirement not only due to the regression therapy technique, but to the revision of some Christian perspectives about the early Biblical figures and their movements and motivations. Readers open to moving behind staid traditional interpretations will find a treasure trove of new spiritual meaning in Divine Consciousness that propels a greater understanding and interpretation of spirituality in the modern world and the real origins of their roots. 

Divine Consciousness

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Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 1
C.M.H. Koenig, Compiler
Dove Christian Publishers
9781734862553             $19.95 PPB, $3.99 eBook

Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 1 offers succinct daily devotional readings designed to encourage reflections about God's purpose, Biblical passages, Christian Old Testament readings, and the link between these words and daily life. 

The passages are gathered from the early works of several major Christian devotional thinkers: authors Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), an English Particular Baptist preacher; Robert Hawker (1753-1827), an Anglican priest; and Octavius Winslow (1808-1878), a pastor. The meat of their impact lies not only in their perspectives, but in compiler Koenig's attention to arranging their insights in a manner that lends to independent or group study of Biblical concepts using a systematic, chronological structure. 

This approach walks readers through Scriptures in a logical manner that lends to clear discussions and understanding of the concepts in Genesis and Job, the focus of this first in a projected fourteen-volume Biblical study program. 

C.M.H. Koenig grew up as a missionary kid, with daily devotions lead by her parents. This places her in a unique position to gather devotions to lead others, from the first discussion of Genesis to the end of Job. The reflections from leaders of faith are wonderfully written, thought-provoking, and especially recommended for study purposes. This passage stems from the first devotion on Genesis: "No sooner is there a good thing in the world, than a division is necessary. Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them, let us not confound them. Sons of light must not have fellowship with deeds, doctrines, or deceits of darkness. Children of the day must be sober, honest, and bold in their Lord's work, leaving the works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it forever." 

In providing hard-hitting food for thought in digestible daily passages that lend to discussion and comprehension, Koenig provides Christian readers with a powerful program that advocates taking the time to thoroughly consider major Biblical passages, events, and meaning. 

Those engaged in Bible study will find Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 1 an essential key to understanding the Bible in new ways that lead to better comprehension and a richer ability to absorb the true meanings of God and the Bible's stories. 

Very highly recommended reading for self-study or Christian group pursuit alike, Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 1 requires only time for careful pursuit and reflection and a Christian audience interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the Bible's connections to human and spiritual affairs and aspirations. 

Old Testament Readings & Devotionals, Volume 1

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Tales Of The Holy Mysticat
Rachel Adler
Banot Press
978-0-9763050-1-9         $15.95 

Readers who enter into Tales of the Holy Mysticat: Jewish Wisdom Stories by a Feline Mystic thinking that this will be a feline philosophy guide will find the emphasis on Jewish wisdom stories and spirituality a satisfying focus. This is a collection of tales that centers on Rabbi Rachel Adler's cat and its unusual connections to mysticism and spiritual reflection, operating much in the manner that the classic The Dalai Lama's Cat did for Buddhist faith. 

This book begins the way cat books usually do: as a series of autobiographical stories of Adler's amusing cat's antics and quirky personality. But it becames much more. 

It is a testimony to faith and a way of imparting the messages of Jewish texts and practices from an unusual cat's eye view of spirituality. It is a fun observation of how spiritual growth and reflection can exist even in crabby, difficult personalities such as Dagesh. 

In taking time to observer her "Holy Mysticat", Adler discovered new questions and answers about her faith and its place in the world, and cultivated discussions and insights that would not have come to light but for her interactions with Dagesh. 

Rabbi Alder's method of imparting this wisdom through observations of her cat is appealing and well-written: "The Mysticat believes that in his previous life, he was a human Kabbalist and was rewarded for his piety by being reincarnated as the highest life form made of flesh and blood: a cat. In his present form, he is served by a faithful gabba’it, who, while not a mystic, is at least not a total ignoramus (am-ha-aretz). His simple surroundings are clean and abound in s’farim, holy books, whose holiness the Mysticat takes into himself by lying on them to absorb their textual content. (I myself covet this ability more than any of the Mysticat’s other powers, but alas, the only way I can learn Torah is to pound it into my head with multiple repetitions.)" 

Connections between cat and Kabbalah are nicely drawn to grasp the attention and perceptions of readers of Jewish mysticism and cat lore alike, while the thought-provoking reflections offer insights and analysis of the Jewish faith that will prove remarkably astute and revealing to anyone with an interest. 

Jewish commentary, analytical processes, discussions between Torah scholars, and descriptions of Jewish customs, celebrations, and history are the heart of the story, but by making the Mysticat part of this process, Rabbi Adler creates additional connections and revelations which will attract readers usually adverse to scholarly approaches: "Yesterday the Holy Mysticat celebrated Rosh Chodesh Tammuz with a divided heart. Certainly, any new moon is a blessed occasion. The Mysticat, a mighty singer, loves the Hallel psalms. But he is deeply ambivalent about this month. Tammuz and the month of Av, which follows it, are articularly pleasing to a creature who luxuriates in warmth and light. In these months, the Mysticat abandons his office chair and meditates at the foot of the floor-to-ceiling window looking out onto the balcony. The text he most often calls to mind is Rav’s description of the World to Come—Olam Ha-Ba—in Berakhot 17a." 

The result is an exploration of Jewish studies that is more accessible than most, teaching not just the foundations of Jewish faith, but the importance in observing the world around us (which may be as close as one's kitty) and translating its actions and insights into the fabric of Jewish traditions and beliefs. 

Jewish readers will find this a much more accessible, lively, and thought-provoking way of learning and relating to Jewish mysticism than many other approaches offer, and will learn to appreciate the Holy Mysticat's wisdom as interpreted by Rabbi Adler. 

Tales Of The Holy Mysticat

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