Pick of the
Quite simply the single best
book of that month's
From the May 2017 Issue
Home: Field Notes
Fans of the literary fly-fishing philosophical best-seller A River Runs Through It are especially in for a treat with Heading Home, because this account contains a similar blend of metaphorical observation and philosophical reflection that keeps its story lively and its writing supercharged with emotion.Under the guise of a Western landscape and story lies the heart of a poet and the kinds of descriptions that are evocative and striking, turning this story of the author's journey into the Western wilderness into a powerful blend of discovery and enlightenment, very highly recommended as an exceptional literary work that grabs the mind and imagination and doesn't let go.
From the April 2017 Issue
Bone War of McCurtain County
A scientific, corporate, and political war fueled by a strange discovery sounds like fodder for fiction; but the special delight of The Bone War of McCurtain County: A True Tale of Two Men's Quest for Treasure, Truth, and Justice lies in the fact that this Indiana Jones-style adventure is, in fact, nonfiction. Seldom is a gripping read like this replete with so many insights into special interests and social, scientific and political subterfuge, but The Bone War is a stellar example of what happens when reality runs head-on into special interests on all sides. This vivid, well-detailed story of a clash between cultures is hard to put down and very highly recommended as an engrossing, unique scientific saga.
the March 2017
Issue Touch No One Joseph Hirsch Black Rose Writing Cyberpunk was
born in the 1980s and is a sub-genre of science fiction, set in a future filled
with technological achievements not always equalled by social awareness or
evolution. Most novels that fall under the heading of
'cyberpunk' were fairly original creations when the genre began; but over the
decades the 'new' shine has worn from the genre until too many of its plots are
filled more with technological spoofs and wonders than real stories with depth.
That's why Touch No One is more than a cut above the norm - that, and
its inclusion of an investigative mystery element that keeps readers involved in
a winding plot centered around a host of not just technological wonders, but
their impact on humanity as a whole. Woven into the detective/mystery theme are
bots that are servants and best friends, currency that is 'dark', human
enhancements that reduce human beings, and much more. The title Touch
No One is just one indicator of something special: a standout in
a realm of tired technological devices that will keep readers happily guessing
to the end.
From the March 2017 Issue
Touch No One
Black Rose Writing
Cyberpunk was born in the 1980s and is a sub-genre of science fiction, set in a future filled with technological achievements not always equalled by social awareness or evolution. Most novels that fall under the heading of 'cyberpunk' were fairly original creations when the genre began; but over the decades the 'new' shine has worn from the genre until too many of its plots are filled more with technological spoofs and wonders than real stories with depth. That's why Touch No One is more than a cut above the norm - that, and its inclusion of an investigative mystery element that keeps readers involved in a winding plot centered around a host of not just technological wonders, but their impact on humanity as a whole. Woven into the detective/mystery theme are bots that are servants and best friends, currency that is 'dark', human enhancements that reduce human beings, and much more. The title Touch No One is just one indicator of something special: a standout in a realm of tired technological devices that will keep readers happily guessing to the end.
From the February 2017 Issue
Rubiks: The Rabbit Mysteries Book 1
From the January 2017 Issue
The Frog Prince: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella
The only thing teen prince Gerit wants to do is escape from the castle for a little fishing and time away from royal responsibilities, but when his precious moments away are interrupted by a fall into a bog, he considers it his royal right to command an old woman passing by to help him - and is annoyed when she asks for a reward in exchange. As he resists her suggestion and pays for it by falling into more adventure than he'd bargained for, Prince Gerit finds that he's experiencing a different kind of life that makes his castle duties look good.
The Frog Prince as originally told by the Brothers Grimm was only part of the tale: Mike Klaassen reveals the other, deeper impacts of the young brash prince's decisions in a story that follows the frog's life and changing perspectives about both watery and human worlds.
Fans of fairy tale retellings are in for a real treat in this psychologically complex, compelling read.
From the December 2016 Issue
A flair for vivid descriptions that recreate Biblical times with an unusually compelling attention to detail, a story line embracing one of the relatively minor characters in the Bible which elevates the life of Deborah to unexpected meaning, and a solid representation of the life, times, and various political and social concerns of Jesus Christ lend to a story that is highly recommended reading for all.
Too many Biblical retellings suffer from a staid focus and predictable approach; but Deborah Rising is an exceptional production that hones a dramatic retelling of Deborah's world from many different perspectives. From how women live and the beauty of her environment to Deborah's precarious life and escapes from death, her story is well captured in a delightfully intricate yet absorbing story line that is hard to put down: the hallmark of a superior production and a standout in the genre of Christian literature.
From the November 2016 Issue
Paperback = $17.95 List
Hardcover = $30.95 List
eBook = $3.99
November’s issue was exceptionally large due to authors moving reviews from prior months into the holiday area, so it was especially difficult to choose this month’s standout ‘Pick’ – but Jeff Altabef’s Red Death deserves acclaim for its ability to reach beyond its intended young adult fantasy reader audiences well into adult circles, and for its complex, sweeping saga of a brother and sister who find themselves on the wrong side of their society when a brother’s special abilities solves a long-standing community health problem.
One would think acclaim would result from a breakthrough such as this; but in fact curing a plague only brings the wrath of the establishment down upon the heads of Aaliss and her younger brother, who soon find themselves in a strange new world outside of their comfortable society.
Reminiscent of The Hunger Games’ dystopian world but fueled by a combination of social angst, political confrontations, and siblings who puzzle out the inconsistencies of their world, Red Death is a complex and fine read that weaves in elements of thriller, sci-fi and young adult perception.
From the October 2016 Issue
The Whizbang Machine
Danielle A. Vann
It’s rare to see a young adult story that features a collaborative investigation by a grandfather and his granddaughter, but The Whizbang Machine does a wonderful job of outlining a warm relationship between the two as they struggle to understand the supernatural forces and messages revolving around a typewriter’s output.
In 1960, Patricia Ward’s The Secret Pencil featured a mysterious silver pencil that helped send a young investigator on the chase of her life as it wrote its secret messages; but The Whizbang Machine holds the added attraction of a family curse and a conundrum that leads the two relatives on a problem-solving mission involving family heritage and a magic typewriter.
Young adults and all ages will find the story well-done and steeped not just in mystery and supernatural elements, but replete with strong characterization and adventure.
From the September 2016 Issue
Code Name: Papa
John Murray as told to Sharron Murray, With Abby Jones
ISBN: 978-1-4808-1945-0 (sc) $20.99
ISBN: 978-1-4808-1946-7 (hc) $37.95
ISBN: 978-1-4808-1947-4 (e) $ 7.99
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Code Name Papa isn’t that it’s part of a trilogy or that it’s a thriller, but is that it reads with the high drama and immediacy of fiction, yet represents the factual story of a family man who led a double life as a middle-class American father and a secret agent.
Author John Murray worked his way up the ladder to head an international covert team charged with ridding the world of dangerous political enemies and terrorists. As an undercover agent, Murray traveled the world and faced down terrorists; but to his family he was anything but adventurous, dangerous, or cunning – he was a family man, and a Papa to his kids.
Code Name Papa makes for especially riveting reading when one considers that his dual life often impacts his personal world in unexpected ways. His autobiography takes on thriller elements as it provides a page-turner that’s absorbing and hard to put down.
From the August 2016 Issue
Effects: What Candidates Don't Tell You
Finlee Augare Books
ISBN: 978-1-943080-25-0 (print) $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-943080-26-7 (e-book) $4.99
With the 2016 political elections coming up fast, citizens who want to learn how to read between the lines of political promises should well consider the advice of an author who is a CPA and who has a MBA in finance and a BS in political science.
Payne has written Side Effects: What Candidates Don't
Tell You for general-interest audiences who may not be well
versed in political subterfuge and methods for uncovering the truth,
and its advice applies to all parties as it provides the basic tools
of how to identify and understand rhetoric and differentiate it from
Data, charts, and close analysis of how to inspect arguments and contentions on all sides provide the powerful keys to assessment that any voter should master before deciding on a proposition, candidate, or law.
From the July 2016 Issue
A Fairy-tale Ending: Book One of the Charming Tales
The Pitchfork of Destiny: Book Two of the Charming Tales
Harper Voyager Impulse
The entire purpose of this 'Pick of the Month' section is to choose one title that stands as the singularly best title received that month, regardless of genre - but this month, an exception is being made to this rule because both books are not just equally powerful, but are connected in a series ("The Charming Tales").
The immense pleasure of these books - especially for prior fans of fairy tale re-tellings - lies in their tongue-in-cheek humor paired with twists of perspectives no matter who the character may be: egotistical prince, a dragon with a bad reputation, or Princess Rapunzel, who tries to be 'more than her hair'.
Not all is what it seems in such a land: a misunderstood dragon who only wants a bite of barnyard animal once in a while gains a bad reputation when a belch leads to a fiery title, and a troll tired of his bridge-hugging lot in life decides to become a fish eater.Hilarious and delightfully original, both A Fairy-tale Ending and Book Two, The Pitchfork of Destiny, are not to be missed!
From the June 2016 Issue
Lump and the Blanket of Dreams
978-1-4602-6438-6 (paperback) $11.49
There are numerous children's picture book retellings of folk legends from around the world on the market today, and many for Native American stories - but Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams is an exceptional addition to the genre literature that deserves to be included in any picture book collection where Native American stories are a feature.
Among the facets that make this a standout: captivating full-page, full-color illustrations that are unique and gorgeous presentations, a story line based on Navajo culture and folklore elements that creates an original saga while staying true to its roots, and the participation of Navajo weaver Barbara Teller Ornelas, who contributed one of her blankets for a drawing and who served as a consultant to keep the story authentic (Ms. Ornelas' weavings are in the Smithsonian, the British Museum, and many other galleries).
Little bear Lump Lump just can't seem to go to sleep despite all preparations. His task is to gather materials from the forest, with the help of his animal friends, so that Spider Woman can weave him a Blanket of Dreams to help him sleep. Parents and kids will find the story engrossing and the Navajo references a powerful feature to a fine tale.
From the May 2016 Issue
Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?
Many books about Tibetan Buddhism attempt to make the basic concepts and spiritual facets of the practice accessible to Westerners; but few achieve this task with attention to science, humor, and a combination of spiritual wisdom and social insights as does Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice.
From why people get 'stuck' in processing lives and choosing paths to colorful visual insights, meditative connections, and strategies for mindfulness and change, the joyful perspective that is steeped within this book's pages are an attractive, lively alternative to treatments that are all too often weighty or dense.
If only a few books on Tibetan Buddhist practices were to be selected from the many on the market, Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice would be a top recommendation, happily standing heads and shoulders above the rest.
From the April 2016 Issue
What the Clocks Know
Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd.
ASIN: B01C8PQHAQ $2.99
As a reviewer who began reading timeslip stories with young adult classics such as Time at the Top, Charlotte Sometimes, andHalf Magic, it's fair to say that a certain predisposition to stories of time travel and magic exist - but that's not the only reason why What the Clocks Know resonates so strongly to make it a top recommendation as an exceptional story.
It's a ghost story, it's a romance, and it's a saga of past lives and clues to a mystery that are revealed through diary entries and a compelling saga of two souls living different lives in one body.
When their worlds collide, nothing is predictable or common, and the adventure that results doesn't just grip the reader: it grabs them and pulls one into several worlds at cross-purposes with one another.
Any reader who began with early timeslip classics and who may have found little exciting since the decades-oldTime And Againwill relish the twists and approaches of What the Clocks Know: a standout in the genre.
From the March 2016 Issue
Suzanne Falter & Jack Harvey
New Heights Publishing
$0.99 ebook $12.99 paperback
Transformed: San Francisco isn't a standout just because it's set in my hometown, or because its protagonists are anything but your usual gumshoe detectives. It's a standout quite simply because the lives, perspectives, and approaches of these characters provide a satisfying mix of personal and professional angst, savvy, and innovation, and because once begin, Transformed: San Francisco's unexpected plot and characters make it nearly impossible to put down.
Fine, twisting plots and subplots create a progression of events that keeps readers not only guessing about outcomes, but on their toes. Fans of mystery and intrigue who tire of the usual, predictable formula approaches will find Transformed just the ticket for an engrossing, unpredictable read.
From the February 2016 Issue
Plenty of books have been written about the life of Jesus and the politics of his times: some fiction, some nonfiction. Most are dense, challenging reads that either rehash similar perspectives and information or simply translate the life of Jesus into plain English from Biblical versions.
It's a pleasure to see something different, and a standout, in Len Lamensdorf's The Murdered Messiah series: told over a five-book series, each book delves into a particular facet of his life and follows not just his evolution, but the political and social struggles of his times.Anything but dense, the story assumes a lively, real feel and even readers thoroughly immersed in the story of Jesus will find plenty new to relish here, making the entire series a top recommendation.
From the January 2016 Issue
Deep River Press
918 Twin Oaks Farm Rd
Sanford NC 27330
ISBN 9780991163557 –Trade Paper $18.95
ISBN 9780991163564-Large Print $24.95
Publication date: February 19, 2016
What psychological and political forces lead to a young person's recruitment in an ethically questionable, ultimately horrifying series of events? Events surrounding the development of Hitler's Youth Corps are strikingly portrayed in Darker the Night, a vivid story of young Hedy, a is a winner in a competition certain to make the Fürher proud of his young warriors. This win will earn her a position in his Youth Gathering in Cologne, a high honor, indeed, for one not yet fourteen.
Young adults receive a thought-provoking and powerful story of how youth were affected by his ideals and encouraged to participate in increasingly dark events in a vivid read especially recommended as a companion view of the other side when pursuing the Diary of Anne Frank.
From the December 2015 Issue
Denis J. Harrington and Charlie Steel
Condor Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 39 /123 South Barlow Rd.
Lincoln, MI 48742
Think 'Western novel' and authors such as Louis Armour spring to mind: usually writers whose only productions lie in this genre. But think Fire Canoe Finnegan for something satisfyingly different: a 'western' theme packed with well-researched historical background that holds the rare attribute of being an absorbing leisure read and a solid fictionalization of real American history.
As if the title wasn't enough to spark interest, the character of Finnegan, an assertive, take-charge kind of guy who is between jobs when he falls into the unlikely position of piloting a steamboat down the Missouri River, grabs attention right from the start.Add romance, intrigue, and a series of challenges and then wind in the story of Native Americans facing vast changes from the white man's intrusion on their world and you have a captivating story that elevates the idea of 'Western' a step above the norm, making it highly recommended for any with an interest in American history and vivid drama.
the November 2015 Issue
Times Square Publishing
ISBN: 1517277205 ASIN: B0117UFSCG
Some of the factors that makes Killer.com such a gripping read is that it does an outstanding job of blending the realistic atmosphere of a courtroom drama with the thrill of a detective investigation, rounding everything off with a discussion of real-world cyberstalking dangers.
Readers with a special affection for courtroom scenes and psychological tension will relish the progress of Killer.com, which allows plenty of room for surprises and much food for thought about its realistic scenarios. The result is a compelling story that's hard to put down, and highly recommended as a cut well above most courtroom crime reads.
From the October 2015 Issue
The Millennial Reincarnations
Daniel M. Harrison
Publick Media Publishing
There are few books that can claim to be compelling, original reads; especially those that skirt the borders of a philosophical piece, a new age exploration, and a spiritual examination wrapped in the guise of fiction – but the pleasure of The Milleannial Reincarnations lies not in its ethereal subjects, but in its invigorating language and sweeping examination of world peoples and influences on life choices and planetary ecology.
bright, vibrant language, a fictional format, and a dual focus on
faith and opportunity as he posits scenarios in which milleannial
generations – and thinking – transforms hearts and minds.
It’s complex, rich, and engrossing all in one: that it achieves this feel with so many seemingly-disparate threads running through it is testimony to a story that simply reaches out and grabs its audience. Very highly recommended as a unique, five-star read!
From the September 2015 Issue
614 Wal-mart Drive
Farmington, Mo. 63640
1477570799 Price- $1.99 Kindle/ $10.99 print
My website: www.jessicatornese.
Ordering link: http://www.amazon.com/
Timeslip young adult fiction has been a top genre read for this reviewer, from Edward Eager’s time-travel sagas to the works of L.N. Boston, Edward Ormondroyd, Penelope Farmer, and many more. Such is the history and shared methods of this genre that over a period of time they all tend to assume the same basic structure: a teen falls into another world and struggles to return home.
Linked Through Time ups the time-travel ante by having protagonist Kate wake up in the 1960s living the life of an aunt she’s never met. If she thought that living at her grandparents’ house without benefit of celluar service was a challenge, this life is a whole different ballgame, forcing her into a world of relative poverty, country living, and a dangerous knowledge of what is to happen to this aunt.Is everything predictible, and can Kate’s choices change the future? The timeslip devices may sound familiar but Tornese’s approach takes the story line a step further and lends a delightful feeling of surprise that will satisfy even the most seasoned, avid reader of timeslip young adult fiction enthusiasts.
From the August 2015 Issue
In 1998, author Christopher Madsen discovered a derelict, leaky sailboat named Rowdy which reeked of neglect and mystery. The process of rebuilding her and uncovering her murky past led him on a journey that traversed East and West coasts, involved exhaustive research, and ultimately drew the author as much into researching nautical history as into the physical act of restoring an old, once-grand boat.
It’s this lively approach which makes Rowdy so much more than just another nautical story or account of a boat restoration project: in restoring Rowdy to her former magnificence, Madsen’s research filled in many gaps in nautical and ship-building history. Add color and vintage, historical black and white photos and illustrations which are liberally peppered throughout and you have a read that goes far beyond any sailor’s story to chart an investigation that traverses time and excels in historical research and vintage history. "Five Stars"
From the July 2015 Issue
Creating Joy & Meaning for the Dementia Patient
Rowman & Littlefield
4501 Forbes Blvd. #200
Lanham, MD 20706
There are so very many books on the market directed to 'managing care' and 'handling' dementia patients - and so many more dementia patients needing help - that it's refreshing to see a more human, caring approach focused on the basic elements of living (joy and meaning) rather than 'management' in Creating Joy & Meaning for the Dementia Patient.
Ronda Parsons’ specific title is packed with insights on how to tailor these elements for dementia mental states, offering a virtual treasure trove of recommendations and approaches that eschews the usual clinical 'management' terms and ideas to address the very personal dilemma of how to make the ending years of life just as meaningful and important as the early ones.
Outstanding in its concept and approach and specific in its 'how to' arena, Creating Joy & Meaning for the Dementia Patient should be in the libraries of caregivers, families, health providers, and any concerned about maintaining high quality of life for dementia patients.
the June 2015 Issue
Boots Are Made for Butt-Kickin': The MisAdventures of Miss Lilly,
Kalan Chapman Lloyd
5906 S. Knoxville Ave, Tulsa, OK 74135
Print ISBN 978-1-312-93526-6
Digital ISBN 978-1-312-93525-9
Delightfully fresh and original in its story of a butt-kickin’ lawyer who opens the saga with a confession that he’s the perp who pulled the trigger (and shot his opponent in the toe), These Boots Are made for Butt-Kickin’: The MisAdventures of Miss Lilly, Volume Two is a rollicking fun read that doesn’t just cross genres: it busts them apart. Think detective story, Western, legal thriller, and mystery and then throw in a sassy protagonist with a propensity for outrageous candidness and actions that border on legal rebellion of system and process and you have a fun, unpredictable story that is a breath of fresh, original air and a hilariously fun read.
Weird Tales revitalizes a genre that falls somewhere between science fiction and horror - and which saw its golden age in magazines from the 1920s which fostered such great talents as Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft.
Since then, horror has taken somewhat of a large step away from 'weird' - which is why it's essential to read Lyn Murray's Weird Tales for a sense of what has been missing in many modern short stories of the unexpected.
These are compelling, visionary tales that offer twists that don't depend on bloodbaths or deep trauma. In typical 'weird' format they often come steeped in the supernatural - and always come with extraordinary visions and satisfying surprises.
So sit back, relax, and let Lyn Murray's stories tell themselves: they provide testimony to an approach that may have seen its heyday in bygone years, but which is still alive and powerful under the right hand.
From the April 2015 Issue
Raked Gravel Press
An interest in Toyko's culture and people is the only requirement to appreciate Beauty and Chaos, a vivid and compelling account of the city from a professor who uses the essay to bring the city's streets to life.
This isn't your usual travelogue: it focuses on the ironies, inconsistencies, chaos and beauty inherent in Tokyo's world and packs in passages that are evocative and beautiful even as they offer compelling visions of Tokyo's unique attributes.Tokyo is well known for its fast-paced urban life, but under Pronko's hand, now it can develop into something much more. No armchair traveler or potential visitor should leave home without absorbing the city through Beauty and Chaos.
From the March 2015 Issue
ISBN for Hardcover: 9780986342332 -- priced at $24.99
ISBN for Softcover: 9780986342363 -- priced at $15.99
ISBN for .mobi (Kinde): 9780986342370 -- $5.99
ISBN for .epub (all other ereaders): 9780986342301 -- $5.99
What a curious title! What could this book be about? The opening lines seem to have little to do with rural living: could it be a murder mystery perhaps involving wool?
And that's the beauty of Beware the Sheep: straight away, you've uncovered the magic in a book that sounds like one or two possibilities but turns out to be something different - and in a world where everything is boxed, labeled, and fairly evident, this is a winning feature indeed.
The twists and turns of Beware the Sheep are simply delightful: you may not always know where you're going, but the adventure lies as much in the journey as in the action - a fact many authors forget, but which M. Lewis-Lerman keeps firmly in mind as a character and setting evolve that will reach beyond teen readers well into adult fantasy enthusiasts.At once a fantasy for middle school to adult readers, a mystery, and a tale of magic, Beware the Sheep holds the special attribute of offering compelling characters, well-done atmosphere, and an unpredictable plot - what more could one ask for, from a fantasy?
From the February 2015 Issue
from Little Lump: Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys
Amazon Digital Services
Japanese snow monkeys: how could something so adoreable be so deadly? But perhaps a bigger question is: how did they get to the town of Little Lump in Texas? How did they come to be an undead threat? And what are the good residents of Texas going to do about it?
Well, any town that can stand down an alien invasion with a .22 can more can cope with undead cuties, as Night of th Undead Snow Monkeys only goes to show. Readers of the original Tales will know that aliens who came in peace were gunned down by an over-enthusiastic small Texas town's determination to prevent invasion at all costs. But no prior familiarity is required for this continuation of the horror theme as the Texas shoot-em-up approach is applied to a greater horror in the form of undead cuties.
It's side-splitting humor, it's zany small town ironies and characters, and it's the American spirit against any elements of the supernatural or th alien at its best.
If you're looking for serious zombie apocalypse tales - look elsewhere. Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys requires that its readers have a funny bone in place - and then it tickles and tweaks it until the result is uproaring laughter: something very few horror books can claim to offer.So go ahead - open the door, aim your weapon, and get ready to party with Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys. It promises a night you won't forget, and is very highly recommended as a standout read.
From the January 2015 Issue
World War I histories are usual dry affairs, of special interst to military readers, but not especially accessible to the general reader who may seldom pick up an account of this conflict. Red Star Diary of 1916 was found by Rena Corey in a flea market in 1993 - but the story didn't stop there. It was a bit of luck that its buyer specialized in antiquarian documents and took a shine to Bill Noxon's story, using the few clues it contained to track down its author. Her discovery of Bill Noxon's life apart from his diary adds to his teenage reflections to create a complete picture and involving account of his life and changing world.
Unlike most histories of World War I, Red Star Diary of 1916 doesn't come from a journalist, a military fighter their family, or anyone associated with media, politics, or society. It's from a comparative outsider who evolves from his concerns of daily living and his move from city to the country to take in the wider, evolving world.
If you've read a lot of World War I history, you know that it's a fairly singular subject. Most approaches concentrate on historical events and don't capture daily life in a diary format; and most come from adults, not from teen observers. And Red Star Diary of 1916's maker was deceased - so Rena Corey's first task was to recreate his words and life as he would have, creating a factual, textual documentary and avoiding the usual tendency to produce chapters in favor of the more personal approach of the diary's original format. Quotes from Bill's diary are thus interspersed with Corey's words to round out and tell the entire story, and her additions appear in italics to clearly differentiate her voice from his unedited reflections.
Add a wealth of period illustrations (photos, handbills, postcards, maps, advertising, and more) and you have a unique presentation powered by the unusual collaborative efforts of a young boy's words and an antiquarian document enthusiast's attention to recreating vivid history from a single youth's diary.Very few other stories of World War I hold the intimacy and perspective of Red Star Diary of 1916, making it a standout recommendation not only for readers of the subject, but those interested in the process of re-creating history from original writings and antiquarian works.
From the December 2014
The Laced Chameleon
Francesca Dumas is a New Orleans belle who leads the lavish life of a lady of high society, until her love is shot dead and she declares revenge. Her determination to find his killer changes her life of parties, riches and high society and brings her into a world replete with danger - but this is only a piece of the real story in The Laced Chameleon.
The novel is set in 1862 New Orleans during the Civil War, when the Union Army occupied New Orleans, and delves into the social and racial structure of the city by presenting the life of a 'quadroon' (a person resulting from biracial sex, with three white grandparents) who moves in the world of rich white men. In an arranged union between women of color and white men in antebellum New Orleans, Francesca is the product of such a union, and her place in society and her abilities to move within it are strictly regulated.
Through her eyes and the author's attention to historical detail readers are treated to insights on the intricacies of such a world.
But it's not just a historical novel, though its setting is firmly rooted in historical fact - it's a mystery, as well, and Francesca proves a fitting investigator of a murder.
Part of what makes The Laced Chameleon such a well-done approach is that Francesca's world is vividly portrayed. She doesn't just fall into the role of an investigator - she's pushed in. Her skills at surviving her world will serve her well in her new role, because life just got a lot more complicated.
And the attention to small details - such as the appearance of monies bearing separate images of George Washington and enslaved black cotton pickers, or the question of what kind of currency - Confederate or Northern - is acceptable payment - are little points that serve to reinforce the bigger picture of 1800s New Orleans.
Facing a mortgage from her father, a notorious gambler, and the possibility that her lover's murderer is the same man who stole her friend Emily, Francesca has even more reason for pursuing the truth; only the truth proves not as simple as tracking down a single killer nor uncovering a singular motivation for murder, and her choices at every turn hold implications for independence, changed status in society, and a journey that will change her world.
It's rare to find a historical mystery so well-grounded in the flavors and atmosphere of the antebellum South, and one which so thoroughly injects New Orleans atmosphere into every chapter. This backdrop strengthens the character of Francesca, her life, and her purposes and helps identify the source of her tenacity, creating a believable, living protagonist whose concerns and approach to life is well grounded in the politics and social mores of her times.
The characters she encounters are equally believable, equally logical in relation to the society atmosphere of the times, and are powerful adjuncts to Francesca's world, which is overrun by Union soldiers, lawyers, high society and politics.
From links between deaths of friends to the involvement of policemen and doctors, this is an engrossing saga that depends on one woman's cleverness and ability to delve into close-held secrets and associations for answers that will ultimately return her life to a semblance of normality.
Any who look for a historical murder mystery that's more than light reading will find The Laced Chameleon a top, winning recommendation.
From the November 2014
Golden Goddess Press
ASIN B00OWJ76SO $5.99
away you are from retirement - or, how close, for some - it always
winds up around the corner, in your face, and quite often that's when
are truly assessed and found lacking.
books address their concerns to those young enough to change course,
baby boomers, in particular, out in the cold.
Basics: Help for Broke Baby Boomers
is a standout, and so key to many: it appeals to late-in-life
planners who haven't built a nest egg and who may already be living on
edge. One might not think such an audience would be able to consider
are specific to the process, to an under-considered audience,
and are key to any baby boomer worrying about retirement. In a world
retirement guides appeal to younger generations or salaried readers,
this is a
standout - and highly recommended!
From the October 2014
influences M.D. Hall has cultivated in the course of producing Mystery and Misadventure - An Old
Acquaintance: from a chatty introduction and ending by a wry
duly warns readers of the quiet atmospheres of horror to come to short
that excel in taking ordinary events and plain people and infusing
horror into their experiences, this is Twilight
Zone style at its best, plain and simple.
M.D. Hall is a master at building this kind of atmosphere, and if Twilight Zone were in production today, would likely become one of its chief writers.
From the September 2014 Issue
Margaret Taylor, Publisher
Ordering links: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424257
Cannon Fodder is the perfect example of a book which doesn't know exactly what it wants to be - a mystery, a fantasy, or a young adult read - and in normal circles, that would spell trouble. But add more than a healthy dose of unexpected humor, which is relatively rare in any of these genres, and you have a superior read filled with unpredictable moments, ironic observations, and a young protagonist who isn't at all sure that his ultimate goal is to live up to his training as an evil overlord.
Usually when a story tries to combine too many disparate elements, it falls short. Cannon Fodder holds the rare ability to shine in all genres, whether its reader seeks a solid, involving mystery, a fantasy replete with destructive gods and evil schemes, or a young adult coming-of-age exploration.
Perhaps it's the humor that binds everything together, but Cannon Fodder goes beyond an entertaining read to stand out as a memorable, exceptional story recommended for any who want a story line that stands out from the crowd and creates genre-breaking action.
Who Says That’s Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts
Michelle Marder Kamhi
Pro Arte Books
Paperback: 978-0-9906057-0-6 $TBA
Kindle edition: 978-0-9906057-1-3
E-Pub: 978-0-9906057-2-0 $9.99
There's so many evolving, changing and controversial styles moving from artistic circles into the general public that it's refreshing to have an accessible, scholarly survey that considers the foundations of not only what is art, but what is NOT art.
Michelle Marder Kamhi is both a scholar and an art critic: with these credentials to her name one might expect a dry or ponderous rendition, but Who Says That's Art? is quite the opposite, providing a lively and specific discussion that invites artists, patrons, critics and the general public alike to consider the standards of art and what differentiates real art from more casual pursuits.
As such, this is a top recommendation for any who would consider the foundations of art, its contemporary applications and critical standards, and who would debate these ideas both within and outside of the artistic community.
Diane Doniol-Valcroze & Arthur K. Flam
Amazon Digital Services
It's rare to find a short story collection whose offerings not only excel in bizarre turns of plot, but which provide satisfyingly diverse tales that constantly lead readers in unanticipated directions, but 41 Strange is such a creation and is especially recommended for fans of Ray Bradbury's classic 'The Illustrated Man' or followers of Serling's classic 'The Twilight Zone' TV series. Take a look at look at any of the stories in 41 Strange - say, 'Cut It Short', in which a door-to-door salesman peddles something nobody else has … a customizable calendar. Much like Ray Bradbury's famous 'The Illustrated Man', his calendars tell a story and entwine their readers in terrible tales which grab victims such as innocent Betty, who normally has a routine to dissuade all salespeople who come to her door.
Macabre, engrossing, and well-done: if you like the ironies and drama of 'The Twilight Zone' and appreciate the short-short story form with a literary focus that excels in unexpected concluding twists of tale, 41 Strange is very highly recommended!
D. Medina Lasansky, Editor
Periscope Publishing Ltd./Prestel, Distributors
It's important to note, first off, that The Renaissance is no light read for general-interest audiences, but a scholarly work covering different aspects of the Renaissance, from its doctrines, politics and social impact to the art and popular culture that evolved from its concepts and heritage. Thus its audience will be college-level readers who want not the usual (singular) focus on Renaissance art, but a wider-ranging collection of scholarly essays that each holds different themes and perspectives.
But if you expect a singular, weighty affair, you're in for a big surprise: The Renaissance is quite the contrary, offering important connections between classic Renaissance affairs and modern history and culture that results in some surprising twists. One wouldn't expect Lady Gaga to be part of such a history, for example. And yet, there she is - along with satisfyingly diverse explorations connecting Renaissance culture to modern affairs.
While its primary audience will still be art and history collections strong in Italian Renaissance subjects, The Renaissance Revised, Expanded, Unexpurgated could (and should) reach beyond the realm of the scholar into the general-interest world and is highly recommended as a surprisingly accessible, involving read.
One Heartbeat Past Normal
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00IHI0MXM $8.95
It's rare to find a collection of short stories where the author has truly mastered the form: and by 'mastered', I mean has put together a diverse selection of themes and writings that excel in unexpected twists. One Heartbeat Past Normal is such a collection, and receives top recommendation as a truly remarkable exploration of the strengths of the short story form.
Some are one-page zingers; others hold several pages of detail.
Dennis Timothy's forte lies in little twists of plot that lead readers along a seemingly-predictable path, then change at the last minute. For seasoned readers who continually seek and seldom find true surprises, this is simply a delight.
Twilight Zone fans, sit up and take note: if you like this genre, you will love One Heartbeat Past Normal!
Gateway to Intimacy: A Married Couple's Guide to Love, Romance, Passion, and Phenomenal Sex
Would that every newly-married couple pick up Gateway to Intimacy! A lot of grief would be avoided.
Now, there are numerous 'sex manuals' on the market - and surprisingly, most focus on improving physical prowess over mental change: not so Gateway to Intimacy, which approaches intimacy from the psychological perspective and maintains that without attention to a courtship that involves the heart, mind and soul - any physical expression will fall short of its mark.
Its focus on 'Relationship-Building Sex' strategies is for readers who would move beyond sexual fantasy and other enhancements to embrace the deeper spiritual and psychological insights that contribute to exceptional experience.
Amazon Digital Services (ebook, $3.99)
CreateSpace (paperback, $11.69)
ACX (audiobook, price varies)
It may be because this reviewer maintains a bias towards 'timeslip' novels; or it could be that because of this bias, it's easy to spot a timeslip story that moves beyond anticipation into the realm of the unexpected … but whatever the reason, Timelapse certainly hit its mark with a complex story that's never easy or predictable.
It's a 'what if' thriller that borders on a detective story but its method is anything but canned, while its changing action embraces romance, intrigue, and time travel all in the same story.
If this seasoned reader of timeslip stories can find an exceptional read in Timelapse, so will any audience that enjoys genre-busting adventures centered around believable protagonists and satisfying twists of plot.
The Bullies' Predatory Footprint
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00F3AJP62 978-09523249-42 $12.99
You simply can't refute the lasting importance of The Bullies' Predatory Footprint, which compiles writings of experts in the field who consider not just your usual schoolyard bullying practices, but toxic behavior patterns throughout society as a whole.
In expanding the discussion to follow such behaviors from school to the workplace and beyond, The Bullies' Predatory Footprint goes far beyond most discussions that revolve around childhood bullying to consider its wide-ranging effects on home, school, and personal life into adult years.
It's about time that the focus on bullying expanded its boundaries of thinking: this does the job.
Tales From Little Lump - Alien Season
ASIN: B00FJIEID8 $.99
When you still think about the plot of a story months beyond its initial reading, that's the mark of an exceptional tale - and Tales From Little Lump - Alien Season more than fits this bill.
Perhaps it's because this reviewer is already a Christopher Moore fan and used to Moore's wry sense of humor; perhaps it's because that combination of odd characters and hilarious representations isn't readily seen in novels these days, and perhaps it's because the spoof on aliens and government deception is couched in language and settings readers can readily have fun with.
However way you cut it, Tales From Little Lump - Alien Season is both difficult to easily categorize and a fun, fun read for any looking for out-of-the-box tales.