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Serafina and the Black Cloak
125 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023
9781484709016, $16.99, 304 pages, www.amazon.com
Edward J. Gordon
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Before "Serafina and the Black Cloak" by Robert Beatty was released on July 14, 2015, it already had 3000 glowing reviews on Goodreads. When it did come out, it almost instantly had 195 reviews on Amazon, again with nearly all of them being five-stars.
The book was put out by perhaps the greatest powerhouse in middle grade literature, Disney/Hyperion. They included, prior to its launch, a two-and-a-half-minute promo video to advertise it - high quality, with costumes, actors, and the Biltmore Estate, itself, as a setting. You know it had to cost a pretty penny to make.
With so many advanced reader copies sent out, and so much promotion and publishing power behind it, you'd think "Serafina and the Black Cloak" would be a great novel. Sadly, it is not.
It's the story of a young girl, Serafina, who is part cat. She was born of a mother who can shift back and forth from a mountain lion to a woman - and yes, my first thought was Cat People, the erotic horror movie from 1982 staring Natasia Kinski. Fortunately, this story is much cleaner, if not obviously derivative.
Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Biltmore Estates in 1899 with her father who is an electrician for the estate. She roams the premises at night ostensibly to catch rats, which she is very good at. One night, she sees a man in a black cloak kidnapping a young girl and dragging her into the bowels of the basement where he wraps her up in the cloak causing her to disappear into thin air.
Later, when she tells him, her father doesn't believe Serafina's story, but as more children of the visiting elite begin to disappear, Serafina and her crush, the heir apparent of the Biltmore estate, Braeden Vanderbilt, set out to solve the mystery.
Serafina as a fictional character is interesting, but also somewhat unnecessary. There's no particular reason why she should be part-cat. She could have just been a regular old orphan girl. She could have been part-wolf, or part-hedgehog for that matter, because there's no particular reason for her existence in this story.
Therefore, she comes off as a contrived character, as if Disney is just desperate for any possible character they can find to launch into box office profits, and spin off as toys and maybe a new ride at their theme parks. Nevertheless, Serafina is a sympathetic character, and I did become interested in what her ultimate fate would be.
The dialog in this novel is, I'm sorry to say, terrible. It's stilted and unrealistic. It bears the hallmarks of an amateur writer, and I realize this is Beatty's first novel. But that said, he thanks two different editors at Disney-Hyperion in the Acknowledgement section of the book: Emily Meehan, and Laura Schreiber. Why didn't they catch the bad dialog?
At the beginning of the book, Serafina speaks colloquially, like the rat catcher she is:
"Gotcha, ya nasty varmints!" she hissed.
First off, that's not a hiss, but beside that minor point, why is the girl talking like a sailor from a pirate movie? Later in the book, she doesn't talk like that at all. Like when she's discussing a leading suspect in the kidnappings with Braeden:
"...no but he can do a lot of things," Braeden said, pulling the bits of chicken out of his pocket and handing them over to her.
"You're right. He can," she said as she gobbled the chicken down. "We keep saying that, but how is it possible?"
"That's just the way he is," Braeden said, as Serafina slurped up the clotted cream."
"But what do you know about Mr. Thorne?" she asked as she wiped her mouth. "I mean, what do you really know about him?"
So she's goes from a pirate-sailor to a contemplative philosopher. Not that I'm complaining about her losing her pirate accent that only occurs at the very beginning of the book, but it comes across as if the writer doesn't have control of the character. The editors should have caught that.
The book does seem to have a depth about it, but I can't quite figure it out. The black cloak has a symbolic significance and the fact that Serafina is continually referred to as a "creature of the night." must mean something. The thing is I can't quite figure any of it out.
Sometimes the black cloak seems to symbolize child molestation, but then it seems to symbolize Satan, but then it seems to symbolize greed, indulged in at the cost of innocent lives. Serafina, herself, does a lot of prowling at night - what with being a cat-person and all, but she doesn't have an evil bone in her body. She even relocates the rats she catches rather than killing them. So I can't find any definite symbolism in the book. All these mysterious elements just seem to be deep, but in reality they're not; they're shallow.
Even the black cloak has little reason for being in the story. It could have just as easily been a black hat. I won't spoil the ending of the book in this review, but suffice to say the backstory of the cloak seems arbitrarily plugged in at the end of the novel in one big paragraph, and it has no connection at all to the rest of the story.
My impression is that "Serafina and the Black Cloak" is a formula, boilerplate Disney story, no more special than any other character Disney creates on a whim. It's not Cinderella; it's not Peter Pan. It's a forgettable tale about a forgettable character that is poorly written.
I'm baffled that Disney-Hyperion would get behind this one with the force that it did, but I will trust that they know more about what kids want to read and watch than I do. We'll see how this one does over the next few months. Would I recommend buying this book? Maybe. If it's the next big thing, it might be nice to have read the book when is still wasn't. One thing's for sure: the promo video is far more interesting to watch than the book is to read.
How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture
Jennifer Jensen Wallach
Rowman & Littlefield
c/o Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781442232181, $24.61, www.amazon.com
As food is a hot topic on the conversation tongue in this ever-growing fast food nation, How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture displays a very detailed introduction to the history of America's dinner table (or lack of due to the TV dinners craze after World War II). Jennifer Jensen Wallach lays out her book in chronological order, starting with the earliest settlers to the New World in the early seventeenth century, whom had to survive by deceiving the natives, engaging in cannibalism during the cold winters, and pillaging from those whom were more fortunate. She then expands the colonial food territory by detailing how the ports of this nation provided an entrance for the imported international foods, advancing the young economy, and playing a major part in the increasing of immigration from Europe and Asia. When the United States entered a critical part in its history after the Civil War, food provided a way of means in which citizens had to work hard for long hours at a time just to make a meal for their families. The Industrial Revolution and Progressive Eras saw rises in large corporations and the distancing levels of the wealthy businessmen and the middle class; this also caused tensions between the social classes due to the lack of or plentiful amounts of food on each other's plates, causing the riots and strikes of the North in the early years of the twentieth century. Technology also altered the future of food forever, as during the baby boom, Americans and soon other cultures to follow, would work long hours, sacrificing time spent in the kitchens, and moving the dinner table to the television room. The evolution of food in the United States has changed drastically in its recent history. With the international pressures of pursuing innovation and allowing immigrants to freely settle and start a better more fruitful life in the New World, along with the technology and the mass consumption of ingredients from various imported cultures have turned the food tides of this nation, constantly evolving the family dinner table, changing the topic of politics and daily-life activities, and having the subject "food" become one of the staple and center aspects of the unique culture of the United States of America.
Even though it looks like a cookbook on the outside cover, Wallach's book is not intended to be a book which everyone uses in their kitchen. She does include a few recipes of famous foods from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, relating food to the art of cooking but How America Eats is a very historical book and contains detailed facts about the different origins of food and how the subject has graced the young history of the United States. Using primary sources from letters and secondary sources from scholarly articles worldwide, How America Eats is a very condensed book with a lot packed into it. The intended audience could probably be split into two factions. One group is the historians; anyone that loves learning history, especially about American history, would appreciate this book greatly. And then, Wallach probably also wanted to appeal this book to every-day food-lovers and cooks, whom might not be interested in history that much but would be drawn into the book by its familiar topic.
How America Eats describes the broad scope of how food became an important part in the changing America; through colonialism, slavery, war, immigration, progression, and the Industrial Revolution, food in the New World evolved as much as the United States. In Wallach's very direct and extremely informative tone, How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture is the perfect book to dive into if you are feeling a little hungry beforehand and are eager to learn more about how the foods we eat today which affected the nation we live in.
The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand
Jen Swann Downey
P. O. Box 4410, Naperville, IL 60567-4410
9781492601807, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Mary T. Kincaid, Reviewer
The opening line of the story grabbed me. It starts like this: "Twelve-year-old Dorothea Barnes was thoroughly un-chosen, not particularly deserving, bore no marks of destiny, lacked any sort of criminal genius, and could claim no supernatural relations. Furthermore, she'd never been orphaned, kidnapped, left for dead in the wilderness, or bitten by anything more bloodthirsty than her little sister."
But Dorrie manages to have a rip-roaring adventure time traveling through history. She accidentally finds an opening that leads to Petrarch's library. She and her brother go through trying to get out of the janitor's closet where they are trapped. Some libraries have properties that allow their librarians to travel back and forth between their time and the ancient library at the center. Special protectors are trained at this center to guard and protect the writers that are persecuted in their own time by people who want to keep them from publishing their written works. Some of these protectors are called keyhands which means that can travel through the openings between the library worlds.
Dorrie, whose original motive for staying in the alternate world is sword fighting, she wants to become better at it. One of the skills the protectors are taught is sword fighting and other type of weapons combat. But as she becomes acquainted with her sword technique instructor and makes other friends she begins to take an interest in protecting the ancient library and the people in that world. Dorrie is a character who is well drawn and readers will identify with her as she becomes more curious about her new situation.
The setting description is well done. The reader can picture themselves there in the Attic with the apprentices. The dialogue is well done and believable.
Food and animals are created by reading book texts. Cloths disintegrate when worn through an arch to a place and time where they don't belong. The writing style is easy to read. This is a big world and has a lot of possibility for action and adventure. I found the rules of the world complicated and sometimes hard to follow. Food and animals can be created by reading book texts. After the wonderful opening, and the fall through time, the twelve year old reader might get bogged down in some of the historical references, because I found that some of the references slowed me down as I had to think about them.
For the right reader from twelve to fourteen this is the perfect book selection. The reader who is not daunted by many historical references will enjoy it. The reader who likes time travel and adventure will also enjoy it.
Rating it on a five star system with five being the highest rating, I would give this book a four. But I did enjoy it. I love history, enjoy time travel, and thought the premise for the adventure a worthwhile diversion.
Bridge Through Time
Amazon Digital Services
9781500923587, $10.05, Kindle: $2.99, www.amazon.com
Michael Thal, Reviewer
Great Sci-Fi Sequel
Kyle Thorning is a brilliant young physicist working as a researcher at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research where scientists probe the fundamental structure of the universe. Kyle's secret project is to create a time travel machine.
Why the interest? Kyle's dad, Max Thorning discovered a book, Account of Time Travel on Earth Using Wave Theory, and gave it to his son as a way to cope with his ADHD. The book led Max to Dr. Time, a seemingly benign alien and his Time Weaver device that sent 42 year-old Max back in time to his 16-year-old self to relive an unfulfilled life in Life II. This action created a rift in time and an alternate universe.
Throughout his life, Kyle felt he didn't belong, so he made it his life's goal to find out why. Thrown into the mix is an alien species, The Darsian. These intelligent creatures with four arms, four legs, and no head make first contact with humans on April 30, 2011, an event Max Thorning knows never to have happened in his previous life. The Darsians offer miracles that eliminate millions of deaths per year, but was the price worth it?
Writer Scott Spotson, author of Life II and now its sequel, Bridge Through Time does an amazing job of creating an alternate universe with believable characters, beautiful settings, and a plot that moves breathlessly until the spine tingling climax.
I had a difficult time closing my Kindle version of Bridge Through Time to perform my own writing tasks. As the author of The Koolura Series, I know how important it is to weave key events from the previous books into the new to keep readers abreast of the other novels in the series. Spotson does a superb job at this.
Spotson also shows Kyle's ADHD with all of the psychological ramifications and idiosyncrasies that the disorder has on an adult male. Though the author tries to avoid too much scientific jargon, the little he uses is explained so any layman can understand. Now I wonder if a time machine will be invented during my lifetime.
Bridge Through Time is an exciting sci-fi read containing all the elements that will keep Spotson's audience at the edge of their seats.
Killing Mister Watson
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780679734055, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Paul Binford, Reviewer
In October, 1910, a group of men, "...twenty or more... all have shotguns or rifles..." gathered on the shore of a small island in southwestern Florida, watching the approach of a motorboat. In the boat was a Mr. E. J. Watson, and the men were planning to kill him when he stepped out of the boat. This is the start of "Killing Mister Watson," an unusual approach to a murder mystery, when the reader pretty much knows who did the deed.
Since it is no longer a mystery, Peter Matthiessen's book can be looked at as a written oral history about an obscure and remote corner of the U.S. which may very well be called the last frontier, although it's far from the western plains. Cut off from the more populated coast along the Atlantic by the Everglades, the "10,000 Islands" is a chain of small, sea level islands with dozens of waterways connecting them to each other and the mainland. It is populated, in the late 1800's and the early 1900's, with a wide-ranging cast of characters, all of them misfits, renegades, survivors of the Indian wars, deserters from the Civil War, outlaws, fugitives, men and women both, who struggle for survival on the marginal farmlands along the Gulf of Mexico.
I was reminded of William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," because of the narrative style. Each chapter is a story told by one of the characters, from his or her point of view. We learn the family names, the relations of each family to another, the relations within each family. It's told in the local vernacular, with quaint variations of standard English such as this, from Mr. Watson's daughter, Carrie: "Mister Watson was dressed in a linen suit and black string tie, boots glissening and mustash waxed, and kept his hat off. He looked real glad to see this gloomy bunch, saying My O My with a big smile for us four frights all in a line that dared to call ourselves his family." Note how she addresses her father as "Mister Watson."
Peter Matthiessen is a well-known author, publishing twenty-two works of non-fiction, five novels, a collection of short stories, in addition to the Watson trilogy, which begins with "Killing Mister Watson." The final novel of the trilogy, "Bone by Bone," was published in 1999, and in 2014, Mr. Matthiessen published "a new rendering of the Watson legend," titled "Shadow Country."
The word "shadow" is an accurate description of the Florida landscape where the story of Mister Watson plays out. It is a land of darkness, tunnels of shadow through rivers and estuaries bordered by mangrove trees described as "...a region of mystery and loneliness: gloomy, monotonous, weird, and strange, yet possessing a decided fascination."
Ed J. Watson arrived at a place called Half Way Creek in 1892 with money in his pocket, enough to buy a homestead from the widow of a Will Raymond, who had been shot dead by deputies who "come a-huntin him, out of Key West." Watson had big plans, intending to become prosperous, with a forty acre farm, a horse for ploughing, cows, chickens, and hogs, which Mister Watson "had a old-time feel for." He ended up being the "only planter south of Chokoloskee that ever made more than a bare living in the rivers, he was the best farmer I ever saw," according to one of his hired hands, Henry Thompson. Henry also points out that "Mister Ed J. Watson was a deadeye shot," and known to carry a pistol with him wherever he went.
Most of the islands barely rise above sea level, and because of the tides ebbing back and forth, the most desirable land was what they called "shell mounds," places where the Calusa Indians built up the earth to a height of up to twenty feet. Mister Watson had bought one of the largest of these hilly ridges. On others, the Hamiltons, the Smallwoods, the Thompsons planted their crops, mostly kitchen vegetables and sugar cane, and raised their livestock. For money, they converted their sugar into syrup, cut "buttonwood," a hardwood that could be made into charcoal, hunted and trapped the otters, panthers, raccoons, as well as the soon-to-be-endangered American Egret.
At the time, fancy hats in Paris and New York were decorated with the plumes of this bird, which had its breeding grounds in the 10,000 islands. Here's how they went about "plume hunting," as described by one of the hunters, Bill House:
"Plume hunters never shot 'cept in the breeding season when egret plumes are comin' out real good. When them nestlings get pretty well pinfeathered, and squawking loud cause they are always hungry, them parents lose the little sense God give 'em, they are going to come in to tend their young no matter what, and a man using one of them Flobert rifles that don't snap no louder than a twig can stand there under the trees in a big rookery and pick them birds off fast as he can reload....A broke-up rookery, that ain't a picture you want to think about too much."
The events surrounding the near extinction of the American Egret are grounded in history, yet Mr. Matthiessen makes it clear in a preface that the book is a work of fiction. He declares "a man still known in his community as E.J. Watson has been reimagined from the few hard 'facts'--census and marriage records, dates on gravestones and the like. All the rest of the popular record is a mix of rumor, gossip, tale and legend that has evolved over eight decades into myth."
As a reader, I personally found it to be clogged and cloying with the names, relationships, in-laws, neighbors, who is who, because in any given two paragraphs it is likely that eight or ten different people are referred to. They may be referred to by first name, family name, relationship, occupation, age, descriptions that beg the reader to try to figure out just who is being referred to, what is the status of that person, and just what is the importance of trying to figure it all out. It starts early in the book. An example: "Said Old Man D.D. House, "He will be back." The House clan lives one hundred yards away, east of the store. Ted Smallwood sees his father-in-law's black Sunday boots descend the Indian mound, with Bill House and Young Dan and Lloyd barefoot behind. Calling his sister, Bill climbs the porch and enters the store and post office, which has the Smallwood family rooms upstairs. Feet creak on the pine floor overhead." The "twenty or more" men mentioned earlier are waiting for Mister Watson in order to gun him down.
In the end, it is left to the reader to decide the merits and evils of Mister Watson. On the one hand, he was a good family man, took care of his farm, was generous and kind to his neighbors. One fellow notes that "We never had no trouble from Mister Watson, and from what we seen, he never caused none, not amongst his neighbors." On the other hand, Mister Watson inspired fear. His farm hands had a tendency to mysteriously disappear, right when it was time to pay them off. He was the main suspect in a double murder of a married couple who were living on some property that he'd bought. A note to Ed Wilson from Wally Tucker, the doomed squatter, read: "Mister Watson, I won't get off of Lost Man's Key til after harvest, come hell or high water."
The narrator, Leon Hamilton, reports:"Hell showed up quicker than poor Wally Tucker had expected, and high water, too." The bodies of Wally and Bet Tucker were soon found floating in the river, nearby Mister Watson's recent acquisition of Lost Man's Key.
The story is peppered with anecdotes of Mister Watson that cast him in either darkness or light, the evidence is there for both. So who was Mister Watson? An angel, or an incarnation of Satan? Did he earn the punishment that waited for him when he stepped out of that motorboat? This is what the reader will be left pondering when finished with "Killing Mister Watson."
Anne Garreta, author
Translated by Emma Ramadan
Deep Vellum Publishing
9781941920091 $14.95 pbk / $9.60 Kindle www.amazon.com
Under consideration here is the critically acclaimed thin novel Sphinx by Anne Garreta - originally published in French by Grasset in 1986 when the author was 23. This year, it has been eloquently translated into English by Emma Ramadan with support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States. Published as a simple affordable paperback or ebook by Deep Vellum Publishing (a Dallas-based not-for-profit literary arts organization), it tells, in sometimes ravishingly beautiful (if ornamental) language, of an odd sort of love relationship set mostly in seedy 1980s nighttime Paris. An, at first, cerebrally-intensive affair plays out between the genderless/nameless 22 year old narrator (a lapsing theology student and newbie chichi club DJ) and A***, a 32 year old, genderless, black New Yorker and erotic dancer working a trashy-sex club on the left bank. With such sentence fragments as "... I moved through the smooth insides of a whirlwind and gazed at deformed images of ecstatic bodies in the slow, hoarse death rattle of tortured flesh," its genderless cadence speaks to the broad poetics of love and its powers of latent liberation in almost apocalyptic fashion, so fashionable in the 80s. At times I was delightfully reminded of Jean Genet's great masterpiece of excess: Our Lady of the Flowers.
Sphinx is a pleasingly transgendered work of art in terms of its malleability. The two lovers (the narrator and the narrator's love interest) give no indications of grammatical gender when in dialogue. There are, however, possible (possibly misleading) hints I detected, such as offers of cigars to the narrator and some crude macho verbiage used.
All of the minor characters in the book are fully embodied/gendered (if unnamed) such as Padre***, a rather scandalous priest who introduces the narrator to club night life and then assists in a coverup of a drug overdose that offers the narrator her/his prime DJing gig at club Aprocryphe (as described, sounds like Les Bains Douches). Alternately reading A*** as either Adam or Amie supplies the story with added levels of intrigue. Even more so as the intimacy of the affair begins largely a-sexually. This "love" is somewhat of a mystery at first, as the two characters share no common intellectual or aesthetic interests or passions. The sole engine of narrative development is the brainy white narrator's carnal passion for A***'s stupendous black body; the product of a mixed race American family. A desire/vision so strong that the narrator once describes it (oddly) as seeing through a "veil of blood."
Involved in theological speculation, the narrator naturally intertwines internal-monologue references of sexiness with Godliness - and that brought to mind certain extravagant Prince songs from the 80s, like Controversy. Also the book's descriptions are typical of the hothouse style of some of the best 80s books, recalling for me Anais Nin's A Literate Passion: Letters of Anais Nin & Henry Miller, Gary Indiana's White Trash Boulevard and Patrick McGrath's The Grotesque. But Sphinx, at times, uses a syntax so rich and evocative as to border on logorrhea. A style so purple as to spill over into ultraviolet.
Besides this bruised desire, a few other aspects of difference/attraction between the narrator and the narrator's love interest are explored fleetingly, such as those between A***'s American-in-Paris exuberance and the narrator's generally refined/restrained French sophistication/ennui. Midway into the book, there is a strongly disjointed scene between the two friends where the giddy narrator is keen on declaring love and repressed sexual desire for A*** at the Cafe de Flore. These strong emotions are met with rebuke.
There was an added level of confusion in this scene. At first the narrator proclaims distain for the intelligencia that gather at the Flore (stating that he/she has never stepped foot into the place) and on the following page takes a table there where she/he "always insists on sitting." A strange and unnecessarily confusing mixed message, I would say, in already muddy waters.
Hopes of jelling such desires are intended on a trip the friends make to Munich, where the narrator tours church architecture in search of metaphysical and artistic wonders (and eventual sexual gratification won through imaginative perseverance) with a visit with A*** to Saint***. The description of Saint*** suggests that it is (thinly veiled) the 18th century church Saint Johann Nepomuk, better known as Asamkirche (Asam Church) after its architect Egid Quirin Asam. Together with his brother, the painter and architect Cosmas Damian Asam, they created a masterpiece of sumptuous Rococo there where on entering the vestibule of the church, one encounters a consummate example of Bavarian excess. In this hybrid space, painting, sculpture and architecture work together in fabricating something between a prodigal odium, a playhouse, and an angelic quixotic grotto.
Saint*** plays a pivotal role in explaining the continuation of their unrewarding asexual love relationship by emphasizing genderless angelic bodies in relationship to space, weight, and light. After visiting Saint***, sharing a bed, the lovers "love" each other, but do not touch. As such they remain bound up with the principles of otherness and mutability typical of angelic spectral theology where angels are thought to be carriers of messaged sentiments. In that the feelings/messages delivered are airborne and move, angels fly and are winged, implying that they have virtus (inherent power and potential). Thus, since the lovers contain the principles of virtual mutability, they posses a quasi-material body that cannot be circumscribed by place or endowed with position.
The genderless lover-angels I discovered midway in Sphinx seem constructed from the quantum nature of light. They are hyper-sensitive semi-material lovers, fabricated of semi-transparent matter. They hover above distinctions. This intuition on my part was confirmed when the lovers, back in Paris, tipsily dancing, achieve a state of "lightness of being." That exalted state leads them to the long awaited consummation of their affair where the "temporal order of events, even the simple spatial points of reference" blurred and disappeared when their "crotches crossed."
Hence, these lovers appear as paradigmatic representations of the out-of-bodiness of virtual substance characteristic of spirituality (ignudo spirto). That image of fleshy distentio seems, to me (albeit symbolically), to be the main point of Sphinx. The idealization of the lovers genderless flesh and their side-by-side spatial location on the bed, provide them with possession of the virtual. These winsome figures' semi-transparent relationship to each other conceptually carries over from Asamkirche's richly architecturally domed space from which angelic figures emerge and return towards the light-filled circular opening. A rounded light which constantly re-defines them with every fluctuation in its intensity. A garland of angels is transposed there into relief sculptures which overflow the frame and expand as if they were released from materiality on route to, and from the intricate dome which dominates the composition and which both physically clarifies and luminescently dissolves their form.
The title Sphinx, comes from an English language song that the narrator, prior to a trip to New York, hears and fixates on while watching A*** dance on stage in a club. I suppose the author, Anne F. Garreta, drew this audio image from the disco era song written by Amanda Lear with music by Anthony Monn (who produced the track). The Sphinx was released as the first single from Amanda Lear's album Never Trust a Pretty Face. During the 1960s, Amanda Lear was companion to Salvador Dali who told her to pretend to be man, and she played with that perception throughout her career. It had been said that Lear worked transvestite revues in Paris (like Madame Arthur and Le Carrousel) much like those described in the novel. Lear was untruly rumored to be transsexual and even a hermaphrodite Sphinx, the book, makes use of this little known connective material so as to bake into its genderlessness theme an inverse proposition that gestures at genderfullness.
This implied mid-book angelic fullness is pretty much that apex of the love story, as the lovers, now living together in Paris, start to drift apart. The narrator prefers reading Gustave Flaubert and looking at the Renaissance paintings of Andrea Mantegna, while A*** prefers shopping and low-brow TV shows. This slow drift apart is finalized with a tragic break: that I won't spoil for you here by recounting. I can say that A***'s image, in the eye of the narrator, enters a "virtual space" that "swallowed up" the gaze of the narrator. Following this break, the narrator turns sad, inward and taciturn, returning to academic theology; mining the negative depths of Apophatic speculation. There are long pensive sections here punctuated with drastic and flamboyant descriptions of two further demises. One marked by an almost angelic act of ephemeral and quixotic compassion and charity - the other by stupid brutality. Neither of which washes away the shimmering virtual depths of intelligent tenderness one lives with when reading this book.
One caveat: Save for last the interesting Introduction by Daniel Levin Becker that situates Garreta's work within the tradition of experimental Oulipo formal constraints. Following the success of Sphinx in France, Garreta was invited in 2000 to join the prestigious Oulipo group due to this book's inventive use of gender neutrality. In French, nouns are gendered, and consequently the sex binary pervades subject-verb agreement. Garreta navigated her way around this binary with admiral delicacy and her English translator Emma Ramadan has paralleled the feat. But you don't read Sphinx for the word games. You read it for the painterly imagery, lush language and passionate inquiry into the virtual aspects of desire, need and sexual passion.
Winds of Change: Short Stories about Our Climate
An anthology by Various Authors
Mary Woodbury, editor
Moon Willow Press
Coquitlam, British Columbia
$6.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
This remarkable anthology features the top picks from the latest Eco-fiction.com short story contest. It is refreshing to find an eye-opening ecological anthology, full of moving visions of the environment, climate change scenarios, and the future the planet is heading toward. It features contest winner Robert Sassor's story "First Light"; a story by winner of the 2013 Meringoff Fiction Award and the Enizagam Literary Award in Fiction Anneliese Schultz, MFA '77; a moving tale by award-winning environmental educator and marine ecologist Charlene D'Avanzo, who has taught ecology and environmental science for thirty five years at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA; a work by Stephen Siperstein, who is teaching a course on cli-fi (climate fiction) at the University of Oregon; a tale from PEN New England Discover Award in Fiction winner JoeAnn Hart; a yarn by Rachel May, whose story grew out of a zine-making class she teaches at Syracuse University called Climatopia, in which students develop imaginary scenarios for real progress on climate change; and many more delightful stories and poems by award-winning and new authors. A seminal work at a decisive moment in our evolution, not to be missed.
Adapting to Alzheimer's
Sherry Lynn Harris
9780990417200 $14.95 www.adapt2alz.com
Adapting to Alzheimer's: Support for When Your Parent Becomes Your Child is a practical guide by author Sherry Lynn Harris, who has personally cared for her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother for 18 years. Harris discusses how to recognize warning signals of Alzheimer's; how to simplify one's everyday environment in order to safely remain at home for as long as possible; how to evaluate whether a move to a specialized caretaking facility is necessary; how play and music can keep the brain engaged; ways to calm frayed nerves and redirect aggression; the difficult but necessary process of taking the car keys away from a parent who can no longer drive; and more. Adapting to Alzheimer's is an invaluable resource by an Alzheimer's caregiver, for Alzheimer's caregivers, highly recommended. "Warning: Make sure you don't dispose of any clothing that has special significance to your loved one. For instance, she may have a favorite bathrobe that, after years of wear, looks dreadful to you. But if it's her favorite and represents a sense of comfort to her, you definitely want her to keep it. If you ignore this recommendation, you may be subjected to unrelenting questions about 'Where is my favorite robe?'"
Dr. Jamere A. Brown Spencer
9780989529907 $14.00 www.amazon.com
Also available as an ebook, Manifest Destiny: The Path Towards Wisdom is the autobiographical testimony of author, minister, and theologian Dr. Jamere Brown Spencer's discovery of purpose and identity through his journey to God. Spencer shares eight principles to aid readers in seeking their destined path to the Kingdom of God. Spencer also applies his knowledge of the Hebrew language to reveal truths in the Lord's Prayer, and what it truly means to wait on God. "We can never be satisfied by simply knowing facts. Memorizing a Bible verse and knowing Greek and Hebrew can be compared to a child memorizing the alphabet... If you desire to move from the Genesis to the Revelation of the Word, you must not be satisfied with a head knowledge of the Word of God." A deeply passionate expression of faith, Manifest Destiny seeks to connect with the hearts and souls of Christians everywhere.
The Shaman's Mate
The Shaman's Mate is a sensual contemporary fantasy following skilled canyon tracker Jason Cloud. When a stranger comes to his rescue, he is inducted among the Chileaans, a mysterious tribe of people who remind him of his native grandfather. Jason has no way home, and the tribe expects him to repay his karmic debt by becoming the mate of their holy woman, the beautiful Shaman Aiyana. Is love isolated from modern civilization truly his destiny? Author Donna McDonald's talent for weaving passionate tales of complex characters in mysterious situations is also showcased in her other fantastic books: "Peyton 313" (9781939988201, $12.00), a sci-fi saga about a woman who falls in love with a cyborg she helped create; "Ariel: Nano Wolves" (9781939988256, $13.00) about a woman forcibly transformed into a werewolf by her own biotechnology employers, a twist of fate that takes another turn when she begins to have feelings for the local werewolf alpha; and "The Wrong Todd" (9781939988164, $10.00), a light romantic comedy about a woman's winning bid at a most unusual bachelor auction. It should be noted that all of Donna McDonald's novels are also available in ebook format.
9781783780846, $27.99, 235 pages
It is a brave or foolhardy author who begins a book with the incoherent ramblings of a drunken man. But this is what Mark Blacklock does in I'm Jack. For the first six pages, we are inside Jack Humble's head, trying to follow his unpunctuated, mis-spelt, alcoholic ramblings. And his Wearside (Geordie) accent doesn't help: "drink what ya like pet divent dee onythin on mah count ahm buying an on then leger wud be lush...".
However, you don't need to understand these pages to find the rest of the book fascinating, highly original and blackly gripping.
John (Jack) Samuel Humble was, in fact, the notorious hoaxer commonly known as 'Wearside Jack'. In 1997-8, he sent three letters and a tape-recording to George Oldfield (Assistant Chief Constable of the Yorkshire Police), who was in charge of the enquiry into the horrific murder of seven Yorkshire women by the so-called 'Yorkshire Ripper'. Humble claimed to be that murderer and taunted Oldfield and the police for failing to catch him. This hoax diverted attention from the real killer, Peter Sutcliffe, who went on to murder another three women before being caught.
The identity of Wearside Jack remained a mystery for twenty-four years until 2004, when Humble was arrested on a 'drunk and disorderly' charge and gave a routine saliva sample. His DNA was matched to that on the gummed seal of an envelope in which one of the original hoax letters had been sent. Humble admitted the hoax and was subsequently sentence to eight years in prison for perverting the course of justice.
In I'm Jack, Mark Blacklock explores Jack Humble's thoughts, personality, reasoning, memories and the events of his trial and imprisonment, and he does this through a collage of reports from courts, hospitals, police, handwriting and voice-analysis experts, and, most interestingly, Jack's own writings. Whilst he is in prison, Blacklock's Jack writes long, regular letters to the deceased George Oldfield, still taunting him, but also treating him almost as his best friend and sharing his past and his every-day experiences with him.
There are other voices in the book, too. A crank writes wanting to save Jack from the forces of evil. An elderly woman claims to have once taught him in Sunday School and wants to befriend him. An old cell mate writes to him telling him of a supposed suicide in the prison where he was first incarcerated. And Peter Sutcliffe writes to him, too, telling him he has blood on his hands and suggesting that they should meet. There is also a complete pulp fiction story by a fictional writer entitled, in blood-dripping letters 'Yours Sincerely, Jack the Ripper'.
For me, I'm Jack was a mystery within a mystery. Blackrock's Jack is clearly a young, petty villain who is bored and contemptuous of the police, and who is fascinated by the Victorian Jack the Ripper (he steals a book about him from the local library) and with the contemporary Yorkshire Ripper murders. This is what led him to start the hoax, and the scale of events which this precipitated surprised and scared him. How things preceded from then on, how the police became convinced of his guilt, and how he escaped identification for so long, is the mystery he explains in this book.
But whilst he is in prison he also takes a writing course. The tutor says that they will be building towards writing from their own experience, and this is what Jack does. We see some of the results and he clearly has some skill, which is what his letters to George Oldfield - sometimes jokingly signed 'Jack the Giant Killer', 'Jackanory', 'Sherlock Holmes' - also show. So, since our author clearly knows the story of the real Jack Humble so well, knows all he did, knows how and why and when and where, and is so familiar with his thoughts and feelings in so many of the situations he really faced, I began to wonder if Mark Blacklock really was Jack Humble.
The ending of the book came as a complete shock to me - and didn't answer my question - although a subsequent Internet search did.
I'm Jack is a remarkable book and a superb first novel from Mark Blacklock. Film rights have already been sold to the Yorkshire based filmmakers Mad as Birds.
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408857922, $29.99, 419 pages, www.amazon.com
Rise is a family drama with a decidedly Scottish flavour.
Justine, is a young Glaswegian woman on the run from a dangerously violent man who tells her "Fucking own you, Just. Body, thoughts, the fucking works. Understand?". She has also stolen his money and fears that he will kill her if he should find her. Choosing the first long-distance bus at random in the bus station she ends up, almost literally by accident, in the Highland village of Kilmacarra.
Meanwhile, Michael Anderson is a middle-aged church minister turned politician - a Scottish National Party local Council member for Kilmacarra. He is also battling an hallucination which he addresses as 'Ghost'. Ghost haunts him, appears in various shifting forms, nags and torments him, and is becoming more persistent. He fears he is going mad.
Michael and his novelist wife, Hannah, and their two sons, Ross (a delightful pre-schooler) and teenage Euan, have moved to Kilmacarra only recently to evade shadows from their own past. When Euan is knocked down one night by a passing motorist and seriously injured, it is Justine who finds him and calls the ambulance, before running off so that she remains anonymous. And it is Justine who becomes emergency housekeeper/nanny for the Andersons whilst they deal with this emergency. It becomes clear, however, that they have a number of other problems to deal with, too.
Karen Campbell skilfully and believably immerses her characters in a place and a time in which disruption and change are affecting the whole community, fracturing relationships and causing uncertainly and distress, but also cementing friendships and creating new opportunities. A referendum on Scottish Independence is imminent. Hanna is obsessed with finding out who is responsible for Euan's accident, but also becomes involved with protests about the wind-farming project which threatens Kilmacarra's ancient and historic landscape. Her increasing involvement in these protests endangers Michael's Councillor credentials and also rocks their already shaky marriage. Archaeologists, meanwhile, are excavating ancient stone circles and cairns and making important finds, although the location and the short-term nature of their excavations seem unlikely to stop those who see modernisation as the way forward for Scotland. There are losses and gains. But it is Justine's predicament, her growing attachment to the family (especially to young Ross), her ever-present fear of her past catching up with her, and the dramatic events which this precipitates which make this book absorbing reading.
Justine is not sweet, nor is she innocent, but it is her energy, her relationship with others and her forthrightness which carry the story along and make it worthwhile.
The Living and the Dead in Winsford
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781447271918, $29.99, 471 pages, www.amazon.com
An award-winning Scandinavian author, murder, suicide, a lonely house on mist-shrouded moors, witchcraft, second-sight, a bohemian collective of "practitioners of the liberal arts" in two exotic settings, death threats, rape, romance and a faithful dog. What more could you want?
Nesser manages to fit all this into The Living and the Dead in Winsford. His narrator is Maria Holinek (alias Maria Anderson "with one 's'"), and she is intent on making a new life for herself after killing (perhaps) her husband.
I do not read many crime-fiction books, so I am not very familiar with the conventions of that genre. Is it OK for some of the mysteries in the book to remain unsolved? Who wrote 'DEATH" in the grime of a car parked in an isolated location? Why did Casper the fireside-hugging dog disappear on a bitterly cold, rain-swept night and turn up more than a day later at a local pub? What is the strange presence in the house and what makes that strange clanking noise outside?
And how did "a patch of blue sky" manage to appear after darkness has fallen (page 8)? Nesser leaves us in the dark about all these mysteries.
And, is it an accident that the "much talked about", famous British poet, Tom Herod, shares the initials of Ted Hughes and also has an equally famous, American, poet wife, whose debut novel will make her a "goddess of scurrilous gossip" and who later commits suicide?
Nesser is at pains to point out that all his characters are fictional but that "The Exmoor environment has been meticulously described in accordance with reality". Indeed it has. And if you need a travel guide this book would help, provided you can cope with the ever-present mist, the wind and the rain and the cold. Admittedly, Nesser and Maria were there in the middle of winter, but thankfully, the gorse blossoms all the year round. Which means, as Maria discovers, that the ancient Exmoor rule that a boy can only make love to his girlfriend when the gorse is in bloom, is a joke.
Of course, none of this much matters if the book holds your attention and I certainly kept reading to the end where, suitably, the shock denouement appears on the final page.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408854297, $29.99, 318 pages, www.amazon.com
Can one feel sad about the demise of a mechanical octopus? Yes, if it usually sleeps on your pillow, steals socks and ties, hides in drawers and seems to have a mind and personality of its own. Katsu the octopus was made by Keita Mori, the master Japanese watchmaker whose strange ability to know the future haunts this book. And it is this clairvoyance which leads him to Nathaniel (Thaniel) Steepleton, for very special reasons.
Thaniel is a Home Office telegraph clerk working in London in 1883. Wireless telegraph, steam-driven underground trains, society balls and women university students who must be accompanied to the University library by a man are all part of this world. So, too, are the bomb threats made by the Irish Fenians, Clan na Gael.
On the day that Thaniel takes down a telegraph message warning that all public buildings in London will be bombed exactly six-months hence, he also returns to his boarding house room in Pimlico to find his door-latch open, the stove lit and used crockery washed and put away in his cupboard. On his bed, he finds a small velvet box addressed to him and inside is a fine rose-gold watch and chain. There is no indication of who has left it. Also, it does not seem to be working.
Thaniel's sister in Scotland knows nothing about it. The police are uninterested in a burglar who leaves things rather than stealing them. And pawnbrokers will not take it because watches like this one "just disappear". When weeks later the watch suddenly clicks open and starts working Thaniel finds Keita Mori's name and address inside it. And when its alarm subsequently saves him from a devastating bomb blast, he seeks out Mr Mori and their strange friendship begins.
Mori is expert at making tiny mechanical toys. He uses clockwork, chemicals and gunpowder to create fireflies which fly, fairies and fireworks. But Thaniel is not the only person to own one of his intricate and unusual watches.
Grace Carrow, who is in her fourth year of studying science at Oxford University, owns one in which a delicate filigree mechanism releases a tiny flying swallow when she opens the back. Grace, who is obsessed with experiments which she hopes will prove the existence of luminiferous ether (a theoretical element which carries light-waves and other energies), uses her watch to distract her from boring meetings. Grace also has a Japanese friend, Matsumoto, who is "the elegant son of a Japanese noble-man" and is "not so much a student as a very, very rich tourist". Grace purloins Matsumoto's jackets so that she can pose as a man in order to get into the university library. They tease each other and suit each other well, each being smart, contrary and determined, but this is not the story of their romance.
Instead, this is a mystery, a history, a fantasy and a very strange love story. The story moves backwards and forwards in time, and there are chapters set in Japan as well as in Oxford and London. The Japanese community in London is involved; there are tough little orphan children who help out in Mori's workshop; and Thaniel meets Gilbert and Sullivan at the Japanese village and is hired to a play the piano in an open-air performance of The Mikado.
Of course, the lives of all these people become entangled, but at the heart of the book is Keita Mori, his curious inventions, his uncanny knowledge of future events and his interventions in situations which he knows will occur. He knows in advance what people will say and do; mid-conversation, he casually intercepts a baseball which would have broken his nose; he manipulates the deaths of several men who threaten the life of Ito, who is Japan's Minister of the Interior and for whom he works; and he is, somehow, closely involved in the bombings which occur in London.
Natasha Pulley has a delightfully wry sense of humour, her characters are likeable and believable, and you keep reading because you never quite know what will happen next. The story is intricately plotted, and towards the end of the book it does get a little confusing as the doubleness, trickery and foreknowledge of some of the characters brings the story to a climax and a denouement.
All becomes clear in the end. But did Katsu the octopus survive? Thaniel, who sees sounds as colours, saw/heard Katsu's colours linked to a terrible bomb blast. But the sudden appearance of a very significant heavy-duty bolt in Mori's hands in the final paragraph of the book is suspiciously like something Katsu might have helped to arrange. Natasha Pulley never explains the mystery of the heavy-duty bolt but leaves it as a thought-provoking ending to her book.
Ann Skea, Reviewer
A Historical and Etymological Dictionary of American Sign Language
Emily Shaw & Yves Delaporte
Gallaudet University Press
800 Florida Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002-3695
9781563686214, $75.00, 344pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the early 19th century, a hearing American reverend, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, met a deaf French educator, Laurent Clerc, who agreed to come to the United States and help establish the first school in America to use sign language to teach deaf children. The trail of ASL's development meanders at this point. No documentation of early ASL was published until the late 19th century, almost seven decades after the school's founding. While there are many missing pieces in the history of America's sign language, plenty of data exist regarding ASL etymology. The collaborative work of Emily Shaw (a nationally certified ASL-English interpreter and linguist in Silver Spring, MD) and Yves Delaporte (a former director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, France), "A Historical and Etymological Dictionary of American Sign Language" is the first to collect all known texts featuring illustrations of early ASL and historical images of French Sign Language (langue des signes francaise - LSF) and link them with contemporary signs.
Through rigorous study of historical texts, field research in communities throughout France and the U.S., and an in-depth analysis of the cultural groups responsible for the lexicon, authors Emily Shaw and Yves Delaporte present a compelling and detailed account of the origins of over 500 ASL signs, including regional variations. Organized alphabetically by equivalent English glosses, each sign is accompanied by a succinct description of its origin and an LSF sign where appropriate. Featuring an introductory chapter on the history of the development of ASL and the etymological methodology used by the authors, this reference resource breaks new ground in the study of America's sign language.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "A Historical and Etymological Dictionary of American Sign Language" is a seminal work of exceptional scholarship. Informative, detailed, illustrated, and enhanced with the inclusion of a Handshape Typology, an American Manual alphabet, as well as a listing of Symbols and Conventions, "A Historical and Etymological Dictionary of American Sign Language" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Sign Language reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Engaging Young Engineers
Angi Stone-MacDonald, Kristen Wendell, Anne Douglass, Mary Lu Love
Brookes Publishing Company
PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285-0624
9781598576535, $36.95, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Helping young children develop problem-solving skills and boosting their kindergarten readiness, thereby setting them up for long-term success in STEM subjects is the primary task of the classroom teacher. "Engaging Young Engineers: Teaching Problem Solving Skills Through STEM" is a timely and practical instruction guide that focuses upon supporting the problem-solving skills of all young children by teaching them basic practices of engineering and five types of critical thinking skills (Curiosity, Persistence, Flexibility, Reflection, and Collaboration) -- and discovering how to sharpen all these skills as a teacher! Using a clear instructional framework and fun activities tailored for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, classroom teachers will help children birth to 5 explore big ideas and develop new ways of thinking through engaging and challenging learning experiences. A must for teachers in inclusive early education classrooms, "Engaging Young Engineers: Teaching Problem Solving Skills Through STEM" comprehensive and reliable guide to teaching the 21st-century skills children need for STEM learning and school success.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Engaging Young Engineers: Teaching Problem Solving Skills Through STEM" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and very highly recommended for preschool and grade school classroom curriculum supplementation.
161 John Roberts Road, South Portland, ME 04106
9781416245636, $19.95, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The dramatic icy colors and shapes of beautiful Rosendal, Norway and a Scandinavian antique sock pattern are the inspiration for "Yarn Happy". Knitting expert Turid Lindeland gives traditional patterns a modern twist by using non traditional color palettes, the cool shades of ice and the vibrant colors of summertime. "Yarn Happy" showcases more than 30 knit and crochet projects that represent the beautiful, simple, clean designs that Scandinavia is famous for. Easy to follow charts will inspire a beginning or accomplished knitter to explore the beautiful world of Scandinavian color work. Included are patterns for traditional designs in both large and small projects for wearables and home decor along with some decidedly fresh and modern items. "Yarn Happy" is an elegant and charming design book that is sure to inspire anyone who loves working with yarn.
Critique: As 'user friendly' as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Yarn Happy" is very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal and community library needlecraft instructional reference collections.
Ancient Sex: New Essays
Ruby Blondell & Kirk Ormand
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212837, $97.95, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Ancient Sex: New Essays" presents groundbreaking work in a post-Foucauldian mode
on sexuality, sexual identities, and gender identities in ancient Greece and Rome. Since the
production of Foucault's History of Sexuality, the field of classics has been caught in a recursive
loop of argument regarding the existence (or lack thereof) of "sexuality" -- particularly
"homosexuality" -- as a meaningful cultural concept for ancient Greece and Rome. Much of the
argument concerning these issues, however, has failed to engage with the central argument of
Foucault's work, namely, the assertion that sexuality as we understand it is the correlative of a
historically specific form of medical and legal discourse that emerged only in the late nineteenth
century. Rather than reopening old debates, "Ancient Sex" takes up Foucault's call for discursive
analysis and elucidates some of the ways that ancient Greek and Roman texts and visual arts
articulate a culturally specific discourse about sexual matters. Each contributor presupposes that
sexual and gendered identities are discursively produced, and teases out some of the ways that
the Greeks and Romans spoke and thought about these issues. Comprising essays by emerging
and established scholars, this volume emphasizes in particular: sexual discourses about women;
the interaction between sexual identities and class status; gender as an unstable discursive
category (even in antiquity); and the relationships between ancient and modern sexual
Critique: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Ruby Blondell (Professor of Classics at the
University of Washington) and Kirk Ormand (Professor of Classics at Oberlin College), "Ancient
Sex: New Essays" is comprised of an informative introduction by Blondell and Ormand (One
Hundred and Twenty-Five Years of Homosexuality), a succinct Epilogue (Not Fade Away) by
David M. Halperin; and seven insightful essays by a roster of accomplished academicians.
Enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, a list of contributors, and Index Locorum, and a
General Index, "Ancient Sex: New Essays" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship and
very highly recommended for academic library Human Sexuality reference collections and
supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Ancient Sex: New Essays" is also
available in a multimedia CD format ($14.95).
The Internet in China
Ashley Esarey & Randolph Kluver
Berkshire Publishing Group
120-122 Castle Street
Great Barrington, MA 01230-1506
9781614729358, $59.00, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Internet in China: Cultural, Political, and Social Dimensions,1980s-2000s" provides unique and much-needed historical background on the communications revolution and technological developments that have transformed Chinese society, creating new conflicts and new opportunities for the nation's half billion "netizens". "The Internet in China" is convenient handbook covers the role of the Internet in business and economy, governance and politics, civil society, and social welfare. More than forty international experts, many of them Chinese, write about community-building and social networking, online dating and romance, government regulation, education and entertainment, and phenomena specific to China, including the Great Firewall and microblogging.
Critique: Collaborative compiled and co-edited by Ashley Esarey (Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies, University of Alberta) and Randolph Kluver (Associate Professor, Department of Communications, Texas A&M University), "The Internet in China: Cultural, Political, and Social Dimensions,1980s" is impressively presented in both scope and detail. Informed and informative, "The Internet in China" is a model of seminal scholarship and very highly recommended for professional, governmental, and academic library China Studies reference collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Internet in China" is also available in a Kindle edition ($49.00).
The Future of the Music Business
Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing
33 Plymouth St, Suite 302, Montclair, NJ 07042
9781480360655, $29.99, 404pp, www.amazon.dom
Synopsis: New technologies continue to revolutionize the music business. While these technologies have wreaked havoc on traditional business models, they've also provided new opportunities for music business entrepreneurs, as well as new challenges for musicians, recording artists, songwriters, record labels and music publishers. Now in a newly updated and expanded fourth edition, "The Future of the Music Business: How to Succeed with the New Digital Technologies" provides a road map for success by explaining legal fundamentals including copyright law's application to the music business, basic forms of agreement such as recording, songwriting and management contracts, plus the rules pertaining to digital streaming, downloading and Internet radio. "The Future of the Music Business" also shows exactly how much money is generated by each of these models, and details how the money flows to the principal stakeholders: artists, record labels, songwriters and music publishers. Part I is a comprehensive analysis of the laws and business practices applying to today's music business Part II is a guide for producers on how to clear music for almost any kind of project including movies, TV, ad campaigns, stand-alone digital projects AND how much it will cost Part III presents new discussions on the hottest industry controversies including net neutrality; and the financial battles between the new digital music services & copyright owners and artists Part IV discusses how to best use the new technologies to succeed The book contains URLs linking to 2 on-line videos: Fundamentals of Music Business and Law, and Anatomy of a Copyright Infringement Case. Attorneys can use a password to gain 2 CLE credits.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, this latest edition of "The Future of the Music Business: How to Succeed with the New Digital Technologies" is an dispensable and informative instructional resource that is a fundamentally and critically important addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library reference collections. Simply stated, every aspiring musician and performer should have a copy of this comprehensive instruction manual and guide.
Willis M. Buhle
Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985
Stephen H. Provost
Craven Street Books
c/o Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610352505, $24.95, 230pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Stephen H. Provost grew up in Fresno in the 1960s and 1970s, and is now a journalist and author living on California's Central Coast. Therefore he writes in "Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985" with a very special expertise and insight into the people and places of Fresno, California, including Al Radka; Christmas Tree Lane; Fulton Street (before it became the Fulton Mall); Harpain's Dairy; The Sunnyside Drive-In; Dean and Don and The Breakfast Club; Gottschalks; The Tower District -- and so many more parts of Old Fresno, some that are still with us and some that are now long forgotten. "Fresno Growing Up" is the community biography to tell the story of Fresno during the times Stephen Provost remembers, when the city was growing up fast and so was he. "Fresno Growing Up" documents the Fresno experience and Fresno popular culture during its dramatic postwar period, when the city abruptly shifted from a small town to the fastest growing city in the United States. Surveying the businesses, restaurants, movie houses, malls, personalities, sports, bands, and fads that made Fresno fun from the forties to the eighties, "Fresno Growing Up" is a nostalgic look back at both the city's adolescence and our own.
Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985" is impressively well written, organized and presented. As informed and informative as it is entertaining and absorbing, "Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library 20th Century American History collections and could well serve as a template for similar histories for community anywhere else in the country.
A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth
Kevin M. Powell
2612 North Mattis Ave., Champaign, IL 61822
9780878226955, $39.99, 226pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: By focusing attention on what is right with youth rather than what is wrong with them, "A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth " by Kevin M. Powell, PhD, (a licensed psychologist who has been working with children, adolescents, and their families for the past three decades in a variety of settings, including outpatient, inpatient, school, and correctional facilities), offers a strengths-based approach to intervening with youth avoids negative outcomes commonly associated with deficit- or problem-based interventions. "A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth" provides an accessible outline of the strengths-based approach and details 41 interventions across several strengths domains. Practitioners in school, clinical, and community settings will find numerous case examples, practical suggestions, and reproducible forms and handouts invaluable in the provision of day-to-day youth services.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "A Strengths-Based Approach for Intervention with At-Risk Youth" enhanced with the inclusion of figures and tables, an appendix of forms and handouts, and a twenty page listing of References, making it strongly recommended as a core addition to professional and academic library instructional reference collections.
The Expeditionary Force Marines Sourcebook
39074 Webb Court, Westland, MI 48185
9781574571776, $20.95, 168pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Expeditionary Force Marines" is a riveting Robotech sourcebook that carries players to alien worlds. The player's characters can pilot the early Cyclones and next generation of Destroids, liberate alien worlds and engage the merciless Invid Regent, his Inorganic shock troopers and Invid swarms. Epic, planet-hopping adventure awaits. The Robotech "Expeditionary Force Marines" sourcebook is set in space with the UEEF (United Earth Expeditionary Force) led by Admiral Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes, Breetai and Exedore. This valiant force of mecha-clad heroes travel across the galaxy liberating planets from the bondage of the Invid Regent, the Robotech Masters and other tyrants and monsters. New alien people are introduced and become part of the Expeditionary Force Marines. In between their ongoing war with the Regent and his Invid and Inorganics, they explore planets, battle space pirates and face treachery on many fronts. 5 new Marine O.C.C.s, 22 M.O.S. skill packages, and some new skills. 8 new Destroids, two of them Zentraedi, plus a Battloid or two. 6 new Cyclones, including Space Cyclones, the Spider Hover Cyclone, the Walker and more. CVR-1 and CVR-2 body armor and notable Expeditionary Force (and alien) weapons, gear and vehicles. The Regent's war machine: Invid Scientist R.C.C., Invid Assault Trooper (new), Invid Fury (new), Invid Ogre (new), Invid Ranger (new), Garn Inorganic (new), the Regent statted out, and more. 6 alien races and brief overviews of their planets. 34 Perytonian Energy Wizard Magic spells. Quick Roll Creation Tables for UEEF Marines as player characters. Time-line for the Expeditionary Force and related events on Earth.
Critique: For more than three decades, Palladium Books has earned a reputation as an outstanding independent publisher of role-play action/adventure science fiction and fantasy game books. "The Expeditionary Force Marines Sourcebook" by Irvin Jackson is its latest (and one of its best!) titles and very highly recommended. It should also be noted for those unfamiliar with Palladium Books that they also publish a quarterly book series called 'The Rifter' which is designed to showcase work done by impressively talented fan writers and artists. Those new to role-play are encouraged to visit the Palladium Books web site at www.palladiumbooks.com for a complete listing of all of their available titles.
Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions
Dawn Wright, editor
380 New York Street, Redlands, CA 92378-8100
9781589483637, $59.99, 380pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: What affects the oceans affects terra firma. Compiled and edited by Dawn J. Wright (ESRI chief scientist and Professor of Geography and Oceanography, Oregon State University) "Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions" gathers the insights of more than 50 ocean and coastal science researchers exploring ocean components and their relationships, patterns, and trends over time and space. "Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions" features the geographic information system (GIS) best practices and includes additional online resources. "Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions" also includes a foreword by oceanographer David Gallo, who the director of special projects for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
Critique: An impressive and seminal work of collaborative scholarship, "Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions" is very strongly recommended for personal, professional, community, governmental, and academic library Environmental Studies reference collections and reading lists. It should also be noted that "Ocean Solutions, Earth Solutions" is also available in a Kindle edition ($52.18).
Michael J. Carson
Colonization: Humanity Isn't All They Left Behind
Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
Realm & Sands; 1st Edition
c/o Sterling & Stone
9781629550497, $4.99 Kindle, $12.99 paperback, https://sterlingandstone.net
Ok, so out of the blue we jump ahead two years! Things have changed greatly around the little house on the hill in Veil, Colorado. As you'll recall, Piper had just come back and was calling out her family and associates from the underground bunker. She did that to save their lives, I guess, because the aliens, then blasted a big hole in the earth where the house and bunker used to be. I believe that's the way it went, but since we weren't there and the story doesn't say what happened after that, we'll just have to fill in the blanks.
Apparently, Meyer Dempsey is also back. He's now "in-charge" of humanity via some unknown ability to communicate directly (or indirectly) with the aliens. Oh, yeah, they are now called the "Astrals". There are at least three classes of Astrals, the Divinity who never, ever leave the ship and they usually are the ones thinking of Meyer, the Titans, who are huge, powerfully built pacifist, and the Reptars who just tear people to pieces, but are otherwise known as the Peacekeepers!
Meyer Dempsey and his family, including Raj, Christopher, and Terrance now live in a huge compound from which he directs humanity to do what the Astrals want or else! The "else" part means you die if you don't do what you're told. Other than that, humanity can get back to the business of living and dying naturally if they want. So, the Dempsey's and anyone living in the Heaven's Veil are considered collaborators with Earth's conquerors and are targets of the small, but the growing resistance movement. Heaven's Veil is under attack on many occasions, but the rebels are usually ineffective against the Astrals and are usually dead right after a failed attack.
The Astrals are looking for something on or in the earth and they don't understand what has happened to humanity since their last visit. The Astrals are a group-think species. They all share the same thoughts, feelings, emotions and other such stuff. Humanity of old, when religion was strong and made everyone believe the same things almost made humans very much like the Astrals. Not any more! They have found humans to be much more individualistic and that they don't understand.
Well, this is all pretty weird and kind of hard to understand. I don't understand how Meyer Dempsey can get things done when there isn't much of a dialogue with the aliens at any point in this book. And, he doesn't actually do anything in this part of the story. He's just there as the Viceroy for the aliens and everyone else seems to be afraid of him and the aliens, but they don't do much in this story either.
In fact, there isn't much of anything really going on in this story. We do meet the leader of the Outlands, Nathan Andreus. He's supposed to be a bad guy, but he doesn't actually do anything bad in this book. He actually gets involved in helping everyone out at the end. At the end of the book it gets kind of exciting when we find out the true nature of the Titans, but that part goes by pretty quickly and then we're wondering what's next.
Oh, yeah, Meyer Dempsey gets killed. I think; not sure about that. Good book, but not sure why it was called "Colonization"?
Remember the StarFighter
Michael Kan Publisher
c/o Sterling & Stone
9780996420426, $0.00 Kindle unlimited ebook, $14.99 paperback
This is a very great example of why I read science fiction books. You can do just about anything in them and there's just about no limit to what you characters can do. I like that. It gives authors a blank page upon which to describe entire galaxies and what is happening in them. This book does most of that and more. It describes our galaxy under attack by a ruthless enemy of which we know nothing about. They are relentless in their attacks and destruction of every star system they visit. They not only destroy any resistance found in those star systems, but they also encase the very planets with an impenetrable shield allowing nothing in and nothing out.
The forces fighting against this enemy do not know what is happening to the billions of people that have been encased on these planets. They do know that they cannot contact them or even know if they are still alive. Earth has already been conquered. Fortunately, numerous colonization vessels left the planet and the solar system a long time ago and are now trying to prevent their new systems from falling before this unknown and unbeatable enemy.
There has to be a hero some where in this book and there is. He's a StarFighter although he's not what you would expect. He also gets help from a very surprising source, Earth. I liked the story very, very much. While it is a dark read, the StarFighter has his periods of doubts, and even his surprising ally has her dark moments, so this is not a "happy" story. The writing is done very well and the story flows pretty quick. Lots of action and lots of aliens and mysterious science going on all around.
There were a few too many missing words that are due to the lack of close editing. Words like "the", "and", "or", and other connectors are missing in many paragraphs. I've read worse but a little better editing would be called for in future books. This one doesn't lead to a series but as it's own story it was very, very good.
Major (United Federation Marine Corps Book 5)
Jonathan P. Brazee
Semper Fi Press
B010LXXD36, $0.00 Kindle unlimited ebook, $7.99 paperback
This is one of my favorite series. The action is always intense and pretty much continuous in some way or another. We're back with now Major Ryk Lysander, United Federation Marine Corps. It appears he's calmed down considerably from his Captain days. He's nowhere near as arrogant now.
His new assignment as an Embassy Attache in the capital city of the Confederation, no less, is about as boring as it can get. Well, for him, nothing stays boring. He finds out that his notoriety as a two time Federation Nova winner marks him for extermination by the Confeds. One thing leads to another and he finds his career as a quasi-diplomat is over, quickly. Still, he does manage to assist the Confeds in capturing a critical spaceship taken by the SOG. That's an interesting story in itself.
So his next assignment puts him at the United Federation Marine Corps HQ. This is the worst of all possible assignments for a Major. Here you are just one of many mid-career officers given boring go'fer work to see how much boredom you can swallow! You are a paper-pusher deluxe and it's very tough on action minded Marine officers. But, it's something you have to suck up and do the time.
Ryk is doing his job and trying to cope. He's enjoying his family home time and getting to see his kids growing. Then one day, his friend from way back tells Ryk that he's taking command of a new Marine Ranger Battalion and needs a new Company Commander! Ryk has until morning to make his decision.
Of course Ryk's going to go. Wouldn't be much of a story if he didn't. And now the action really gets started! The writing is great with lots of action. It's not real graphic, but can get realistic unless you live in a dream world and don't think the bad guys would ever use children as weapons! I'll leave it at that, so you can go read the book.
Keep them coming and I'll keep reading.
Libre: A Silver Ships Novel
S. H. Jucha
B0108J1QMI, $0.00 Kindleunlimited ebook, $13.99 paperback
Second book in the Silver Ships series. I don't know how to exactly describe these books. They are magnificent writings on the human spirit and what it means to be human. Yes, these are science fiction books. But, they are much more. They should be teaching us how we should be treating each other and even those things we just take for granted. I am amazed at how the writing in these books stirs my emotions. Very few books I have read do it as much as these two books.
In "Libre", Alex Racine, Admiral Racine and his Family Alexander aboard the starship Reveur have set out to return his partly Meridian crew back to their home world or at least back to their Confederation. With the defeat and capture of a Silver Ship at the planet Bellamonde, Admiral Racine needs to find some allies in the Confederation to help him make repairs and then go back after the Silver Ships. They know they can be defeated, they just need to have the assets to do so.
The approach the planet Libre hoping to find such allies. It appears that the entire Confederation is in a panic to flee this region of space. The Meridians have no sense of war. They would rather give up all their homes, everything they have built over the centuries instead of fighting. It's the same on Libre. One faction is true Meridians. They have been hastily building two gigantic city-ships in which they intend to board and flee to some far off reaches of space where the Silver Ships hopefully won't find them. The other faction on Libre is the Independents. These are the outcast from Meridian society. These people don't know how to follow the rules, are independent thinkers, and often challenge authority. Their actions go against everything the Meridian society believes in so they have isolated these "troublemakers" to the planet Libre. Fortunately, the Independents are just the kind of people Admiral Racine needs to have for allies.
While originally intending to use the planet as a staging area to build up a vast armada with which to attack the Silver Ships, those plans are abruptly halted when it's realized that they either have the time to evacuate the planet's population via the city-ships or build war ships. They can't do both. The SADEs (intelligent shipboard computers) calculate that the Silver Ships will vacate Bellamonde in 90 to 120 days. It will take the humans at least 178 days to have everything ready for both city-ships to depart and reach their FTL exit point safety. And those calculations assume everything is done without error or delays of any kind.
This book will tell you in detail how these New Terrans and their cousins, the Meridians find some common ground to work together for a common goal. It is awfully idealistic, but there are a lot of good people trying to get things done. Even with all their vast efforts, it is realized that a very small number of Librans will have to be left behind. The writing is very humanistic and really covers the tragic impact of their struggles.
I enjoyed this book very, very much. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, which I understand should be coming in early 2016. I can't wait.
Lords of War (Star Crusades: Mercenaries)
Michael G. Thomas
Newport, South Wales, United Kingdom
B00OM124TS, $3.49 Kindle ebook, $12.57 paperback, Audible $17.95 or Free
Spartan never quits. The Alliance won't let him and neither will the bad guys! He's always got to be in on the action or he gets real bored real quick. Although, after the last war with the Biomechs, Spartan is recovering from the loss of his Wife and Son. Surprising that that happened, but that's war and Spartan could do nothing about it.
He's now being contacted by his old friend, Gen. Daniels and Colonel Black from Alliance Intel. They are wondering what Spartan and the CTC corporation are doing on the other side of the Black rift. It just so happens that Spartan is in the process of developing a new fighting tactic involving an Interstellar Assault Brigade. General Daniels just happens to mention to Spartan that there is a growing disturbance of the peace between the Byotai and the Anicinabe. Apparently, the Byotai were happily occupying a planet which now the Anicinabe want. The Anicinabe are out to exterminate the otherwise peaceful Byotai. General Daniels goes on to tell Spartan that the Alliance can't really do much about this squabble since they have to maintain the peace over a much vaster Alliance since the war was won.
Spartan wants no part of this fight. He knows what Gen. Daniels is trying to do and although they are friends from way back, Spartan has no desire to fight right now. His friend, Kan, a BioMech turned good guy, can't wait for his next battle. That's what he was made for and he can't stand just waiting around. Same goes for Olik, the other BioMech who I believe works with Gen. Daniels and the Intel Colonel, Colonel Black.
So, Gen. Daniels goes off to help the Byotai defend themselves. He's bringing in weapons they desperately need to fight back against the Anicinabe. And of course, he gets captured. He's not there representing the Alliance so they are not going to come rescue him. And, even worse, he has brought along and has been captured with, Gun, the BioMech Leader and Spartan's best friend. So, who do you think is going to have to rescue these two?
Right, Colonel Black immediately goes back to Spartan in the Black Rift and tells him what has happened. Time to kick some booty!
This is another fighting mad story. There's both the Naval battles and the ground fighting. Both types of fighting get very confusing. I would like to see this kind of story in a movie so I could better understand what's happening. At times it sounds like Spartan, Gun, Khan and Olik all get shot so many times I don't know how they are even standing. Of course they all usually wear some type of fantastic armor, which helps, but still it's got to hurt.
The writing gets fast and furious at the end. We meet some new characters that may be in the next book of the series, but I don't think this series will ever end. Yes, Spartan is getting older, but he's doesn't seem to be slowing down much.
A great read if you like Science Fiction battles, lots of blood and violent descriptions. Sounds like fun!
The AntiTerrorist: A Jake Corby Sci-Fi Thriller
B00ZS51IJE, $0.99 Kindle ebook
Wow! What an exciting short story! This "book" starts off with Jake getting taken prisoner, beaten up and then getting rescued by Seal Teams! What a typical start for a Jake Corby Novel. The action seems to continue non-stop. I won't reveal the plot, but Jake has to save the Astronauts bacon while they are in the Orbital Space Lab! Now, figure that one out.
The writing is really good. The story flows really well and I like the sarcastic humor coming from Jake Corby. I can almost see myself saying or at least thinking some of the same stuff he says or thinks. Sometimes it would be better if Jake did just think his sarcastic thoughts instead of blurting the right out. It tends to make the bad guys pretty mad at him.
Now, you've probably noticed that I put the word "book" in quotes in my first paragraph. That's because I was very surprised at how short this "book" really was. I'm not a speed ready by any measure, but I finished the entire "book" in about two hours. Yeah, I was constantly reading with no interruptions, but I don't ever finish a book that quickly. This book is just that short; good, but short. So, if you're looking for a quick, but exciting read, this is it!
Never Surrender (Empire's Core X)
Christopher G. Nuttall
$3.99 Kindle ebook
Last time we read the series, Brigadier Jasmine Yamane and part of her Commonwealth Expeditionary Force (CEF) had been captured by a sudden and unexpected attack by the Wolfbane Navy orbiting the planet Thule. She and her men have been taken to a POW camp on the planet Meridian. This world is a class one colony world which just means there's nothing there but a few hardy colonist and they are barely surviving.
This book is entirely about Jasmine and her men's struggle to escape the POW camp and then escape the planet itself. It is a very interesting story. There are a few other prisoners that Jasmine meets and she develops a helping relationship with a few. Once person is outside the camp working at the spaceport while his girlfriend is being held prisoner. This is the way Wolfbane keeps people under control. The kidnap members of a family and then force the others to work for them. There are a lot political prisoners in the camp with one in particular a former General in the Wolfbane military. He's actually not very good, but his aide turns out to be more helpful in the beginning.
Jasmine comes up with some pretty wild plans on how to get them out of the prison camp, then ride on a shuttle to the orbital station and capture it without anyone getting killed. Obviously, the Wolfbane soldiers are the dregs of their military. They are so far removed from the real fighting that they have grown real complacent. The book has a lot of action and a lot of killing. It's not gruesome, but the author pains a pretty good description of what's happening.
There are a couple of strange things about this book. For one, Jasmine seems to be the only female Marine in her entire Force. She also seems to be the only officer of any rank that was captured. Jasmine is also preoccupied with the idea that she's going to be canned/fired/court-martialed when she returns to Avalon. I don't know why she things that. She should know that the trap on Thule was not her doing and she did as much as possible to save as many of her troops as she could. Her worrying about this is unreasonable.
I like this series but I don't think I like the idea of going into the past of each main character and re-living their entire lives. I think that what's in store for the next book. I'll probably skip it. I'm more interested in how the Commonwealth will fight the war against Wolfbane and what happens when they find out who is the new leader of Wolfbane. It's someone they are very familiar with.
Good story and very good writing. Keep it up!
Kato's War (Kato's War Series Book 2)
Andrew C. Broderick
$2.99 Kindle ebook
I didn't think this was going to be my kind of book when I accepted to read it, and it turns out, I was right! This is a pretty simple story. Starting at the second book of a series isn't something I usually do, but I know now that the first book in the series would have made me not want to read any more.
This is a young adults book or for kids. The dialogue is very simple at times. Some conversations probably didn't need to happen, while others just sounded silly. Most of the story was very predictable. A young lady named Zara stole a starship and went after her father who apparently ran to the stars in his own starship after he and his business partner had a disagreement. All that was in book one. Zara found her father and was bringing him back but they had to go into hibernation in order to make it back to any where.
About four hundred years later, a warp-drive ship from Earth (actually Mars) finds Zara and her Dad, Kato. They revive them and eventually return them to Earth. Of course, Earth has changed considerably in four hundred years. Most of the story is the author's vision of the future. It's not bad, but we're seeing it mostly through Zara's eyes and she sounds like a teenaged girl. I think she's supposed to be older.
Anyway, the story only happens because the guy she stole the starship from four hundred years ago, is some how still alive. And he's still mad at her. I guess it takes some people a long time to get over stuff. I think the statute of limitations has long passed, but this guy makes his own laws.
Read the book if you need something to take you far, far away from any war stories. Why was this named "Kato's War"?
Jim Chapman, Reviewer
Prayers to Calm Your Heart
Elizabeth George, author
Susan Winget, artist
Harvest House Publishers
990 Owen Loop North, Eugene, OR 97402
9780736938518, $10.99, www.harvesthousepublishers.com
Bestselling author Elizabeth George draws from life and personal experience to pen this beautifully designed gift book appropriately titled "Prayers to Calm Your Heart: Finding the Path to More Peace and Less Stress". The explicit scriptures, specific prayers and timely advice encourage peace and trust in the Lord during times of high stress and anxiety.
Sometimes anxiety is triggered by local and national news events, such as Newsmax report that "Murder Rates Soared Across Cities in 2015." Or Fox News coverage, "Terrorists gunned down dozens of tourists on a Tunisian beach and left a severed head atop a fence..." Or ABC News account of "Sharp metal spikes installed atop the White House fence" that suggests even our leaders feel insecure.
Other stress factors include difficult work situations, alarming health concerns and distress over family and loved ones. Even the "Lords Perfect Sign", part of the rare blood moon Tetrad of 2014-2015 causes stress over Christ's soon return. Or the recent American Psychological Association survey that showed "Money Stress Weighs on Americans' Health Nationwide." There are so many causes that anxiety and stress are common place today.
Elizabeth's targeted scriptures, heartfelt prayers and sincere advice encourages readers to reflect, re-assess priorities and turn to the Lord when overwhelmed by sin, circumstances or life itself. She writes, "Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8) and He wants us to "come boldly to the throne of grace." (Heb. 4:16)
Themes in this comforting book include fears for the future, making right decisions, panic over finances, and concerns for health, husband, children, loved ones and more. For example in the second chapter she writes about "fretting over what could happen."
In this chapter she reminds readers stressful circumstances are often "ones we can do little, if anything about" other than to pray and have faith. She notes the differences between worry, concern and fear and says, "Concern moves you to prayer" while "fear and worry immobilize you." Instead focus on trust and faith and leave the worrying to the Lord.
Susan Winget's beautiful watercolors of butterflies, frogs, turtles, birds and flowers enhance a sense of calmness as the pages turn. Besides a comforting gift choice for friend or loved one, the book aligns with God's Word and is perfect for coffee breaks, brief moments or at bedtime to calm your fears as you take your concerns to God.
Christi & Brynnan Brooks
3014 CR 7520, Lubbock, TX 79423
9781941549063, $9.99, www.chaplainpublishing.com
Devotions penned by Lydia E. Harris, Washington author of the best-selling Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting and Oregon author Eunice Porter, co-director of membership services for ICL, Institute for Continued Learning are among the authors in "Gathered Treasures: 52 Devotionals to Connect the Hearts of Moms and Girls".
The new compilation of fifty-five devotions recognizes the fast-paced world we live in isn't beneficial to close mother-daughter relationships. Publisher Christi Brooks hopes to change that. The book's unique design, format and target-rich devotions are intended to encourage moms to "connect with their daughters in a new way" through author's shared stories, questions, scriptures and suggested activities.
The overall theme is to "intentionally recognize and purposefully gather treasures for our daughters," writes Brooks. Those time-tested "treasures" trigger memories of shared prayer, "conversations, and laughter, wisdom and life experiences" when time and distance separate.
For example, Lydia's family prayer times are one of the most important treasures she passes on to children and grandchildren because prayer has "an eternal impact for generations to come." Her submission, Praying for a Lifetime (pg. 45) shares that commitment and her prayer experiences where she learned, "prayer moves the hand of God." She's quick to note that although prayer needs change as families mature, God never changes.
Divided into two segments, the larger first section features devotions with ample space for moms to draft a personal devotion and discussion questions of their own. The following Memory Gathering Section identifies pairs of "things daughters gather throughout the years and things moms gather" writes Brooks. This section's pages divide into segments for "Daughters, Mother's and Together Gather's" with space to note special events, activities and plans for future suggested adventures.
"Gathered Treasures" is an important book for our worry, fear-filled world that reveals priorities and the importance of cherished mother and daughter moments in our otherwise stressed-out world. Purchase online at www.chaplainpublishing.com/, Chaplain Publishing
Gail Welborn, Reviewer
Foundation's Friends, Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, with an afterward by Isaac Asimov
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765328304, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Asimov, the author of more than 315 books, 2,000 short stories and essays on subjects including SF, popular science, mysteries and reference works, is toasted in a grand collection of short fiction, essays and novellas by some of the top names of SF. In a preface by Ray Bradbury, he imagines the world without Asimov (a terrible thought). Orson Scott Card sheds light on the formation of the second Foundation. George Alec Effinger retells the story of "Nightfall" in a totally different way. Harry Harrison enters the world of robotics created by Asimov. In all there are seventeen writers who pay tribute to the god of science fiction. In an afterward Janet Jeppson Asimov informs what was like to be the wife of the famous author. But the last word, as always, is by Asimov himself. In it he thanks many of the people he worked with and friends of during his long career. "Foundation's Friends confirms that the world is a much luckier place for having known Dr. Asimov through his writing.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
97805119497, $5.99, www.amazon.com
"Final Instinct" is the third Jessica Coran installment and it is one of the best of the series. Jessica Coran, an FBI medical examiner is on a much needed vacation in Hawaii, but the relax time she deserves is cut short as she receives orders to help investigate a new serial killer tagged "Trade Winds Killer." As she delves into the case she finds that the murder stalks young beautiful Hawaiian women, his weapon of choice is a long razor-sharp blade used to cut sugar cane and he is precise, slow and ritualistic. Cora, whose expertise is serial killers, will have to use all of her medical and police skills to bring the perpetrator to justice. "Primal Instinct combines the island's mystery, intrigue, ancient mystic tales and romantic setting to heighten the story of the operative's chase to stop the mass murder. The methods of police and medical procedure are factual and well researched while the story is filled with many interesting settings and situations. "final Instinct" is quick reading and very enjoyable.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780525945284, $6.99, www.amazon.com
"Lethal Measures" is another novel in the Joanna Blalock forensic pathologist series. This time there are terrorist bombers wreaking havoc on the L. A. area. Blalock is called into investigate and finds there is a link to a forthcoming Presidential visit to the city. She must stop the attacks before they try to assassinate the President. Goldberg keeps the suspense in "Lethal Measures" super charged as the story flows along to the very end.
Christopher Darden and Dick Lochte
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451205414, $5.99, www.amazon.com
Christopher Darden and Dick Lochte bring to life the courtroom drama in "L.A Justice." A dead woman is found in her apartment. The cops pull together a case that is pretty strong with an eyewitness who puts the suspect at the dwelling at the time of the murder. But things start to come apart as prosecutor Nikki Hill progresses with the high profile case. Darden draws on his OJ Simpson prosecutor experience to show with a fictional character the behind the scenes workings of media circus cases of the L.A. prosecutors office. "L. A. Justice" is a fast paced legal thriller.
Alan M. Dershowitz
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446519830, $7.99 www.amazon.com
Alan M. Dershowitz poses a moral dilemma in "Just Revenge" For professor Max Meushen the Holocaust has never gone away. The Nazis wiped out his entire family. Max has found out that Marcellus Pranclus, the militia captain who carried out the orders to kill his family, low lives in the same city as Max. Now Max so many years later engineers a plan to seek revenge on Pranclus and his family that oversteps the laws of the country. Attorney Abe Ringle from "Advocate's Devil," returns to defend Max. Legally what Max has done is a criminal act but morally it's not. Dershowitz's tale is a two-fold novel. On the one hand it is a great novel, while on the other hand it is a warning to never forget what the Nazi's did to innocent people in World War Two. "Just Revenge" is a great legal thriller.
Vintage Science Fiction
Edited by Peter Haining
Caroll & Graff
c/o Perseus Books Group
250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10107
9780786706471, $12.50, www.amazon.com
Ever wonder where some of the movies and TV Shows of SF came from? "Vintage Sceince Fiction answers the question with short stories by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Blish, William F. Nolan, Evan Hunter, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Rod Serling and George Lowther. Some of their works that were turned into films are: "It Came From Outer Space, "2001 A Space Odyssey" and Total Recall. While the TV shows are "Superman," "The Twilight Zone," and "Tales of Wonder." Haining describes tidbits about each story in the anthology and tells which film or TV show each one became. The stories here are as good as ever and some are still possible scenarios of our possible future. "Vintage Science Fiction" is a great collection of classic tales of science fiction that have made some of the great films and TV shows fans continue to enjoy.
Crazy For You
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312640722, $6.99, www.amazon.com
A stray dog changes Quinn McKenzie's life forever. She has always gone along with whatever anyone wanted to do until now. She, against the wishes of her boyfriend, adopts the stray dog. They argue about the mutt and she begins to realize that life doesn't have to be the way it has always been. Cruise masterfully handles the subject of relationships and how they change. "Crazy For You" is a delightful funny novel.
The Phoenix Code
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
97804402462138, $5.99 www.amazon.com
"The Phoenix Code" is a grand science fiction story of what happens when an android takes the next step of becoming human. Asaro has created believable and writing that makes the story flow along. She does not concentrate on the hard science aspect like some writers in the genre. Instead she presents a narrative that is fresh as she concentrates on how the characters deal with the new technology. "The Phoenix Code" is for any fan of science fiction.
Network Your Way To Endless Romance
9780965028516, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Burg who has taught principles of networking for business, now teaches the same techniques to singles on how to find romance in "Network Your Way To Endless Romance" The ideas are sound logical and easy to learn. "The reason for this book is actually quite simple...there is a need. And according to the people with whom I speak and the newspaper and magazine article I read, that need is apparently quite large. Terrific people like you complain that they are dateless, and that they don't know how to remedy the situation. It's been said that the number one "disease" in North America today is loneliness." Unlike other books on relationships that just barely mention networking, this author shows the many simple ways to do it and find happiness. "Network Your Way To Endless Romance" is a perfect resource to anyone looking for love.
Our Exium Universe
9781889131320 $11.95, www.amazon.com
We know the term black hole from SF but what are they? Scientists can answer the question and many others but their explanation is often so confusing that no one other than a fellow researcher knows what they are saying. "Our Exium Universe" explains many of the things of science in easy to understand terminology. He comments on black holes, "the Big Bang Theory" space and a whole lot more. "all of these occurrences mentioned above are still unsolved mysteries today. These facts clearly demonstrate that only after we have discovered what all space is precisely made of can we immediately unveil the cosmic secrets." "Our Exium Universe" educational and should have readers wanting to learn more about the many riddles of life.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250054203, $25.99, 295 pp.
In the first book of this new series by Jo Bannister, the highly recommended "Deadly Virtues," the reader met Gabriel Ash, in his mid-20's, "an intelligent, astute man who had once been highly regarded in national security circles," a well-educated insurance investigator and later a Government analyst before the traumatic events of 4 years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.
The followup book takes place two months later, and reunites Gabriel with Hazel Best, a 26yearold rookie cop, now on probation after the events which took place in that earlier novel, during which she had saved his life more than once. As the book opens, Gabriel is accompanying Hazel to visit her father, the gatekeeper at Byrfield estate, the lord of the manor being Lord Pete ("Peregrine") Byrfield. Also present is David Sperrin, Hazel's old friend and an archeologist who lives with his mother on neighboring property, who shortly embarks on an excavation on Byrfield land resulting in the discovery of what is determined to be the body of a ten-year-old child in a makeshift grave, apparently dead for over 30 years. DI Edwin Norris is the cop assigned to the ensuing investigation into the child's murder, and the identity of the murderer. In the process we learn a lot about British aristocracy, much of it fascinating.
Of course Gabriel's family's whereabouts, and the question of whether they are even alive, is always in the forefront of his mind. Their disappearance during Gabriel's investigation into African pirates' hijacking of British arms shipments has him still continuing that investigation.
The writing is wonderful throughout, in particular the author's descriptions: "I don't know what Guy would have grown up to be. An entertainer, possibly. Or a politician. Something where the ability to tell barefaced lies is a major advantage." And a shopkeeper: "an elderly woman with a froth of white hair and the apple cheeks of the terminally jovial." As in the earlier novel, all the characters are very well-drawn, especially Gabriel, Hazel, and DI Norris, and the relationship between Hazel and Gabriel seems to be evolving into something more intimate. The suspense keeps building, right up until the very last page, which ends in a cliffhanger which makes me all the more anxious to read the next book in the series, "Desperate Measures," due out in December, 2015 - can't wait!
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9780847515612, $17.95, 256 pp, www.severnhouse.com
As this new novel (and the eighth entry in the series) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles opens, her protagonist, DI Bill Slider, of the Shepherd's Bush CID, is jolted out of his post-Christmas lull when he is called to the scene of a homicide, the victim being a "sort of telly personality," 58-year-old Rowland Egerton, a presenter on a show called "Antiques Galore!" and self-styled expert in the field. The body had been found by the deceased's partner in an antiques shop, John Lavender, his friend of over 20 years. The immediate presumption is that it had been a burglary gone wrong, when it is discovered that two items were missing from the antiques-laden home, their value not immediately apparent. Suspicion immediately falls on Lavender, seemingly the obvious suspect, although the ensuing investigation indicates that the victim, although quite a ladies man, "wasn't a very popular man among people who knew him, but noone seems to have hated him enough to kill him . . . adored by his fans and generally not much liked by his colleagues." So the suspect pool is soon much larger.
Because of the dead man's popularity as a "darling of daytime TV," pressure soon mounts for the case to be solved quickly. Billed very accurately as a procedural, much as it must be in real life, the case is painstakingly examined and investigated, very slowly and closely. There is only a small degree of suspense, since suspicions are only that until, with great difficulty, proven. However, as with all series entries, the writing is lovely, and the slow pace only minimally distracting.
The usual cast of characters is present: Slider's wife, Joanna (a Royal London Philharmonic violinist, now on a leave of absence), recovering from a miscarriage; his colleagues on the force, most conspicuously DS Jim Atherton, his second in command and right-hand man; D.C. Connolly; and DS Fred Porson, he of the "mangled aphorism" and master of malapropisms of whom the author says, "it was his way to fling words at meaning and see what stuck." Descriptions in general are charming: A cold night with "a 'lazy wind' too lazy to go round you, went straight through you instead;" "the sound of a door buzzer, harsh and threatening like a wasp with a headache;" and Lavender a man whose "bags under his eyes were so big you could have called them steamer trunks." Carefully plotted, the book is another winner from this author, and is recommended.
A String of Beads
The Mysterious Press
154 W. 14th St., NY, NY 10011
9780802123299, $26.00, 388 pp., www.groveatlantic.com
This is the eighth entry in the Jane Whitefield series, and a most welcome one it is.
Jane McKinnon, a Seneca woman now in her mid-thirties and very happily married for the past seven years to a local Buffalo, New York surgeon, Carey McKinnon, after making a career as a "guide," helping those whose lives are in danger get to safety and establish new identities. She has "stopped taking on runners and their troubles," living a quiet life since she was shot and badly hurt a year ago, until the morning she is approached by the eight "clan mothers . . . important dignitaries in the Seneca culture," who ask her to find a young man, Jimmy, with whom she was great friends in their childhood on the reservation, who has disappeared after a man with whom he had publicly fought had shortly thereafter been killed, shot to death in their cabin in front of the woman with whom he was living. The police have been looking for Jimmy as the prime suspect, and he has fled.
This is a switch from the previous seven novels in the series (which had me hooked from the first one, "Vanishing Act"): Where usually Jane is helping someone hide and change identities, this time she is trying to find someone who has already done that. And this time it's someone with whom she has a deep personal connection.
The author has, happily and as usual, included fascinating bits of historical as well as Indian cultural tidbits and wonderfully poetic descriptions of the natural world, as Jane makes her way along western and northern New York State, in a meticulously plotted and suspenseful tale, one which is recommended.
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312380908, $27.99, 402 pp., www.stmartins.com
Another fast-paced novel from Gayle Lynds! In the opening pages, which take place in 2003 in Baghdad at the site of the National Museum of Iraq, the reader is introduced to the eponymous killers, the best in the world at what they do, whose mission it is to steal a cuneiform tablet which will in turn lead them to the many tens of millions, if not billions, of dollars that had belonged to the now-dead Saddam Hussein.
Jumping to the present time, with a hit-and-run murder quickly taking place, the novel brings the reader to Washington, D.C. and nearby spots in Maryland and Virginia, as well as Marrakech, Iraq and Beirut, with plenty of bloodshed, a lot of weaponry, and some fascinating history along the way. The author manages a seemingly impossible task: to humanize each paid killer, among them Judd Ryder, a 34yearold former member of US Army Intelligence who had done 'blood work' in Pakistan and Iraq; Tucker Andersen, from a secret CIA unit; Burleigh Morgan, a Brit from the old East End; a former KGB member; an Israeli; a former Cosa Nostra killer; others including "the Padre," "the Carnivore, "the Choirmaster," a former Islamic Jihad, as well as a couple of women who are no less fearless than the men. Each also, it appears, has a target on his/her back, often from one or another of their own group. As the author says, "an assassin could never be too careful with his friends."
I must admit to at times having difficulty keeping up with just who is who in this cast of characters, each having at least one alias and various very professional disguises, but that in no way took away from the suspenseful ride. Spy thrillers generally are not among my favorites, but Gayle Lynds transcends the genre, with terrific characters and an imaginative plot, and I greatly look forward to any future books she writes, in this series or otherwise.
Palm Beach Nasty
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623845, $29.00, 304 pp., www.thepermanentpress.com
The two cops who comprise the entire homicide division of the Palm Beach Police Department are both refugees from other venues: Charlie Crawford, a 36yearold former "hero cop" from New York City, 6' 2" and 180, and Mort Ott, described as a 51year old homicide cop who looks 10 years older, 5' 7" and 230 pounds, who for 23 years had been with the Cleveland P.D. Couldn't be more different from each other, though they make for perfect partners, and work together like cogs in a well-oiled wheel.
Charlie is used to the hustle and bustle, not to say murder and mayhem, of New York, where he solved at least a couple of very newsworthy cases, and he finds the change a bit boring: "Palm Beach probably had fewer than twenty homicides in its entire recorded history". As the book opens, however, he "finally (!) had himself a murder," when he is called to the scene of a 19yearold young man, pictured on the book cover showing just his legs from the knees down, dressed in black jeans and sneakers, which we soon find is his dead body, hanging from a banyan tree. And very soon after, there is another homicide, which has Charlie thinking "Two murders in a week in Palm Beach, after having gone fifteen years homicide-free," but "I've never had two cases with so few suspects . . . ever." We are told quite a lot about the rich and famous who live in Palm Beach, "one of the richest towns in America," and a glimpse of how they got that way
Twenty-six-year-old Todd Tropez (born "Gonczik" and raised in Mineola, Long Island, a suburb of NYC, and now calling himself Nick Greenleaf) is a charming bartender with much higher aspirations. Those aspirations form the basis for much of the terrific plot. Though there is, obviously, violence in these pages, they contain a wonderful core of humor, and very well-drawn characters, including a few complex females about whom the reader is ambivalent.
Although it took me much longer than it should have liked to pick up this first book by Tom Turner, it was perfect timing - couldn't have asked for a better late Summer "beach read" which I finished in a little over 24 hours! Happily, I have the sequel, Palm Beach Poison, to look forward to, as well as his most recent novel, Killing Time in Charleston - I have no doubt they will be as thoroughly enjoyable as Palm Beach Nasty, which is highly recommended.
The Murder Road
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
B00XHRVXKE, $2.99, Kindle, 416 pp., www.harpercollins.com
The newest novel in the Ben Cooper series opens in the tiny, isolated Peak District hamlet of Shawhead, where, one is told, there is only one way in and one way out. When a lorry delivering animal feed is found jammed into a narrow lane blocking the only ingress/egress, with no driver inside [although there are a lot of bloodstains, indicating something seriously amiss], the case is assigned to newly promoted DI Ben Cooper, of the Derbyshire E Division CID.
Ben, in his 30's and still recovering from the death of his fiancee, Liz Petty, a civilian Scenes of Crime officer, in an earlier series book. In addition, Ben must adjust to the new DS assigned to him, and is adjusting to no longer having DS Diane Fry with whom to discuss his cases, Diane (who has a reputation for toughness and a lack of emotion") having been transferred to the Major Crime Unit of East Midlands Special Operations Unit, although he manages to get together with her for brief personal/professional visits. Other familiar members of Ben's staff are present, including DCs Luke Irvin, Carol Villiers and Becky Hurst, although Gavin Murfin is, as the book opens, about to celebrate his retirement. His presence will be missed, by his colleagues as well as the reader, despite him being "an idle, sexist, politically incorrect anachronism who should have been kicked out years ago."
The novel starts off slowly, less action-filled than the reader might want or expect, although the descriptions of Edendale and Ben's beloved Peak District, as well as the more rural countryside is, as usual, wonderfully descriptive and evocative. The detailed descriptions, as well as the cover, certainly enable the reader, even those from "across the pond," such as myself, to visualize the scene. Ben finds himself thinking "This was what he'd been missing, the sense of the wide, open spaces of the Peak District, the acres and acres of wild, majestic country that he'd always loved."
The case proves especially difficult, primarily because of the insular nature of the inhabitants of the area, as Cooper finds: "The word 'community' seemed alien to the residents here. They seemed to live in a state of mutual unhelpfulness and suspicion." Things only get more complicated when another body is found later that same day, hanging from a tree less than three miles away, apparently a suicide. It's difficult to believe it's a coincidence, especially when it is discovered that both men were connected to a fatal accident that had occurred on a major nearby highway 8 years ago. The action picks up, as does the suspense, as the book nears its end. As always with a Stephen Booth novel, it was very enjoyable, and is recommended.
Truth Be Told
Hank Phillippi Ryan
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765374943, $7.99, 448 pp, www.torforge.com
In a plot which uses the housing crash of recent years, various facets of which are still in today's headlines, as a jumping-off point, Jane Ryland returns in this newest entry in the wonderful series by Hank Phillippi Ryan. After having been an award-winning investigative tv reporter before she lost her job a year ago for refusing to give up a source, Jane is now working as a reporter for the new online video news department of the Boston Register. That job remains somewhat tenuous in today's endangered world of print newspapers. The opening pages find Jane at the site of a foreclosed house in the course of researching the housing crisis and the forced evictions of the mostly middle-class homeowners when, bizarrely, a woman's dead body is found inside the house.
But things become much more complicated, as we learn much more than we ever wanted to about REOs ("real estate owned" properties), which have become a huge business for banks and the real estate agents with whom they work, and those who work the system for their own profit. Liz McDivitt, magna cum laude MBA, is the first Customer Affairs Liaison for the bank for which she works, of which her father happens to be president. She has developed her own plan for helping those who have fallen into the desperate position of having their homes foreclosed, despite its illegality. She has told no one about it, not even Aaron, who handles the bank's foreclosed properties, who she has started seeing socially, and who has his own secrets.
A second story line has a man, Gordon Thorley, coming into the police station to confess to a notorious crime committed almost twenty years ago. Detective Jake Brogan, one of the cops hearing his story, does not believe it. That killing, of a 17yearold girl, had haunted Jake's grandfather, the then Police Commissioner, up to his dying day, and it is very personal for Jake, 14 years old at the time, who is determined to find out the truth. The reader enters a bizarre world of false confessions, whether manipulated, coerced, or the product of a disturbed mind. The tale unfolds over the course of only several days, with p.o.v. alternating from Jane and Jake's worlds as well as Liz and Aaron as well as Peter Hardesty, attorney extraordinaire, and Gordon Thorley, who was either a liar or a murderer.
Jane is still somewhat ambivalent about her romantic involvement with Jake, given the unwritten rule that one should not be 'involved' with a source, which Jake certainly is and has been, their respective professional obligations a constant challenge.
We are told that though "nothing mattered except what was true," it is also the case that "sometimes you had to lie to get to the truth." The plot is so convincing that one can only hope, as one continues quickly turning the pages, that this not an instance where "fiction is indeed the lie that tells the truth." Another excellent entry in the series, and one which is recommended.
Crown of Serpents
Karpovage Creative Inc.
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
9780615281100 $17.99 pbk
B004AYCT2Y, $2.99 Kindle 385 pages www.amazon.com
The Crown of Serpents was a pleasant surprise. The current crop of stories that follow the history, suspense and paranormal pattern of Dan Brown or even the more pulp Clive Cussler go too extreme in some aspect of the storyline. Although Crown of Serpents does have a super villain, the extreme is limited enough so you can suspend your disbelief. The historical backstory and the development and building of the clues to solve the current mystery are very well done.
Jake Tununda is a combat vet, a military historian and a Seneca. When the discovery of an old journal of a Revolutionary War officer is found and he stumbles across a grave of an Iroquois shaman, he finds himself in the middle of a war between evil and good that started hundreds of years ago. He has to solve the mystery from the past before a power hungry villain, who is willing to kill anyone in his way on a whim, can grab the Crown of Serpents and control the ancient power it is said to have.
The Crown of Serpents is an easy recommendation. It is a smaller story but just as fast paced and developed at the best of Dan Brown's works. I wouldn't be surprised if some big publisher will buy the rights to the story and resell it for double or triple the price.
Those Who Dare
Greenleaf Book Group LLC
PO Box 91869, Austin, Texas 78709
B008H75OPY, $7.99, 381 pages
Those Who Dare is a good WWII novel that suffers from an identity crisis. It can't decide if it is a factual guide in Commando training and early WWII history or a novel. It makes a solid attempt to cover both but the result is a muddy storyline. If you can look past the storyline, you will have a good historical novel.
Lieutenant John Randle is an ex US cavalry officer who spent time in the Philippines fighting guerrillas. As a newly minted British officer, he is assigned the task of protecting the British flank during the Battle for Calais that took place during the Dunkirk evacuation in WWII. He does such a great job fighting against superior German forces that he is recruited to train and lead one of the first British Commando groups during the first few months of the German air assault on Britain.
The historical buffs will love the rich and relatively accurate commando fighting and training details covered in the story. But the novel portion is only enough to dress the history into a slightly more readable format.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
Getting Through My Parents' Divorce
Amy J. L. Baker & Katherine C. Andre
Instant Help Books
c/o New Harbinger Press
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
9781626251366, $16.95, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Divorce is never easy. But for young children who have parents in conflict with one another, or where one parent is so hostile that he or she is actively trying to undermine a child's relationship with the other parent, divorce can be unbearable. The collaborative effort of child psychologists Amy J. L. Baker and Katherine C. Andre, "Getting Through My Parents' Divorce" is a workbook designed especially for kids, and includes helpful tips and exercises to help them deal with the negative impact of custody disputes, understand and identify their feelings, learn to cope with stress and other complex emotions, and feel secure. "Getting Through My Parents' Divorce" easy-to-use workbook includes a number of helpful suggestions to guide children though a number of possible scenarios, such as what to do if one parent says mean and untrue things about the other parent; what to do if a parent asks them to keep secrets from another parent; or what to do if one parent attempts to replace the other parent with a new spouse.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Getting Through My Parents' Divorce" is very highly recommended and ideal for use with children of divorced or divorcing parents who are ages 5 to 12 and in grades K-6.
Layer, Paint and Stitch
Search Press USA
1338 Ross Street, Petaluma, CA 94954-1117
9781782210740, $35.00, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Wendy Dolan has loved designing and creating from an early age. She studied Art and Textiles and qualified with a Bachelor of Education Honours Degree, teaching in Primary Schools for several years. During this time she returned to college part time and gained a Diploma in Creative Embroidery. In the illustrated pages of "Layer, Paint and Stitch: Create Textile Art Using Freehand Machine Embroidery And Hand Stitching" Wendy deftly guides the reader through an inventive style of needlecraft from piecing and layering fabrics, to creating textures, to painting and embellishing with hand and machine stitching. "Layer, Paint and Stitch" contains a wealth of inspiration for any textile artist, showing how to create gorgeous, textured pieces of art and then, in the final chapter, offering inspiration for how to transform these pieces into three-dimensional items such as cushion covers, notebooks, 3-d vessels, and even a wedding dress, which Wendy made for her daughter. "Layer, Paint and Stitch" contains six beautiful step-by-step projects, broken down into three chapters: Architecture, Landscapes and Flowers, and at the end of each section there is an inspiring gallery of Wendy's other work.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is comprehensive and 'user friendly', ""Layer, Paint and Stitch: Create Textile Art Using Freehand Machine Embroidery And Hand Stitching" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to personal and community library Needlecraft instructional reference collections. It should be noted that ""Layer, Paint and Stitch" is also available in a Kindle edition ($35.00).
Exploring and Developing the Use of Art-Based Genograms in Family of Origin Therapy
Charles C. Thomas, Publisher
2600 South First Street, Springfield, IL 62704
9780398090715, $24.95, 119pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A genogram is a pictorial display of a person's family relationships and medical history. It goes beyond a traditional family tree by allowing the user to visualize hereditary patterns and psychological factors that punctuate relationships. It can be used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior and to recognize hereditary tendencies. "Exploring and Developing the Use of Art-Based Genograms in Family of Origin Therapy" was written to share the almost magical understandings that literally become visible when we use symbols, metaphors and imagery in the genogram process. The traditional genogram process is invaluable in helping people understand family history and who was present in generations of family life. An astonishing movement into depth of meaning happens when people are asked to create a visual image or symbol for their family members and ancestors. Suddenly, through metaphor, we can see the emotional impact and the qualities of relationships that these images and therefore family members hold. Unspoken or hidden family beliefs, patterns and rules suddenly surface from the depths of the art, freeing one from following along unconsciously and opening up the possibilities for choice as one moves into the future. The foundation of the art-based genogram provides abundant information about the family generational theme that is revealing and insightful for the art maker. It allows support for a creative depiction of the art maker's ancestral pains, sufferings, joys, celebrations, and life's viewpoints. This creative endeavor reveals therapeutic information that art makers can integrate into their current, present-day lives. Major topics addressed in "Exploring and Developing the Use of Art-Based Genograms in Family of Origin Therapy" include: the historical use of the genogram; the family of origin and unspoken or hidden family beliefs; how to create art-based genograms; therapeutic uses in individual therapy; therapeutic uses in couples and family work; how to welcome children to the process; the intergenerational flow of special issues; and a wide variety of uses for art-based genograms. Case examples are used to illustrate specific points throughout.
Critique: An extraordinary work of seminal scholarship, "Exploring and Developing the Use of Art-Based Genograms in Family of Origin Therapy" is impressively well written, organized and presented. An especially unique instructional reference and resource, "Exploring and Developing the Use of Art-Based Genograms in Family of Origin Therapy" is very highly recommended for academic library collections in general, and the supplemental studies reading lists of art therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in particular. It should be noted that "Exploring and Developing the Use of Art-Based Genograms in Family of Origin Therapy" is also available in an e-book format (978398090722, $24.95).
The Hired Girl
Laura Amy Schlitz, author
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763678180, $17.99, www.amazon.com
A fourteen-year-old flees her dirt-poor farm and oppressive father, finding work as a housemaid in 1911 Baltimore, in this coming-of-age novel that richly delves into topics from faith to social class to early twentieth century women's rights.
With a few dollars in her pocket, Joan secretly steals away on the train and enters into the employ of a well-off Jewish family. As she cooks and cleans for the Rosenbachs, who believe she is eighteen, she has access for the first time to a library of books, opera, a department store where she can spend her weekly wages - and eligible young men.
Joan, who tells the Rosenbachs her name is Janet, is endearingly imperfect and youthfully naive.
She missteps - secretly taking in a kitten, accidentally setting fire to her bed chamber, improperly washing kosher dishes, and telling the Rosenbach's young grandson about Christianity - in ways that you'd expect of a young teen. She's outspoken to a fault and overly idealistic about matters of the heart. When reprimanded, she's penitent about her blunders - age-appropriately crying into the night.
Joan is also smart. With guidance from the Rosenbachs and their elderly maid, Malka, she has a chance to better herself through education. And she's philosophic, questioning and comparing what she's been taught as a Catholic with the Rosenbach's Jewish beliefs.
Because the author authentically writes in early twentieth century conversational language, and because The Hired Girl is in diary form, the prose initially sounds a bit staid. But that ceases to feel like an issue as the characters and situations evolve and their interplay becomes complexly intertwined. and dramatic.
Peppered with references to classic literature, from Jane Eyre to Ivanhoe, The Hired Girl will particularly appeal to readers who are familiar with the books Joan reads and the passages she applies to her life.
But Joan will endear herself to any reader who likes stories about intelligent, headstrong young women finding their way through trial and error. It's a timeless theme, as relevant today as a century ago.
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, GA, 30318-2112
9781561458066, $16.95, www.amazon.com
An intrepid, three-inch-high Lilliputian plots to escape her human captor and to find the way home to her miniature world in this action-packed adventure spun off the classic Gulliver's Travels.
Lily is kept locked in a bird cage by Gulliver, who is preparing to use her as proof of his travels before audiences of skeptical Londoners. Getting away from Gulliver's attic room above a London clock shop is perilous enough - but she hasn't counted on the danger after her escape.
With the help of a young clock shop apprentice named Finn, she makes it out, but later must return to steal from Gulliver a map to Lilliput. Then, she and Finn must come up with a plan to get her safely all the way home.
Along the way, she and Finn encounter plenty of adventure, including Lily getting trapped in the dollhouse of the spoiled young daughter of a chocolate shop owner.
The story is intermittently a bit macabre - in a way that middle grade readers will relish -- with some blood and torturous devices like a watch on Finn's arm that cinches tighter for each minute of time he wastes, made by the evil clockmaker.
There are helpful and friendly animals aplenty, including a spider, a young mouse, a multilingual parrot and a bird trapped inside a clock that must be set free.
There are also nonsense words aplenty. Lily is vulgar - in a marvelously kid-friendly way -- calling Gulliver among other things a "quag" and a "zijji guncher."'
References to Lily's size are endearing. Gulliver's punishment for her misbehavior is throwing her inside his dirty wool sock. She drinks from a thimble, defends herself with a sewing needle, and almost drowns in a mud-filled porridge bowl.
Many things make this a beautiful story, but perhaps more than anything, it is the author's command of descriptive language that brings the scenes alive.
The clock shop is described "as damp as a swamp, as filthy as a gutter, as smelly as an armpit."
London's "million interweaving stenches," include "horse muck mingled with the lavender of perfume shops. Soot and smoke blended with roasting coffee. Fresh bread baked, turnip tops rotted, tar bubbled, and beef broth boiled. London was a city of reek and clamor."
In a particularly poetic line, it's noted that at dawn, "the stars were unstitching themselves from the blanket sky."
There's also impressive storytelling depth. Lily tries dozens of time to escape from the bird cage. Later, there's significant time spent planning a return to the clock shop and Gulliver's attic room and a final, multi-step escape scenario.
With a gallant heroine, on an epic adventure that modern readers will thrill to, Lilliput is a splendidly worthy follow-up to Jonathan Swift's enduring, eighteenth-century original.
Faye Hanson, author and illustrator
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763679576, $16.99, www.amazon.com
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows us," reads a famous quotation from Pablo Picasso, in neat cursive handwriting on a classroom chalkboard midway through The Wonder.
The blackboard quotation is in the backdrop of a classroom scene. But its meaning is front and center, poignantly underscored throughout this exquisitely illustrated picture book that looks at how adults unthinkingly trod - sometimes fatally -- on children's creativity.
En route to school, a little boy awes at the surrounding world. As he does so, adults repeatedly admonish him to stop daydreaming, pay attention, to not step absentmindedly onto the grass, and to get his head out of the clouds.
Meanwhile, the things he's daydreaming about are spectacular, drawn in bright orange against a pallet that is otherwise muted earth tones.
A bird wears a jeweled crown. A fantastic flying machine zooms toward the school bus windshield, spinning out clouds. He imagines the crossing guard's round sign to be a lollipop and the playground to have become a magnificent, red and white-striped carnival.
But the repeated admonishments from adults - almost - take their toll. When asked by his classroom teacher to draw something, "just use your imagination," she says, he's not sure how to proceed.
But then he plunges ahead.
The end result is a breathtaking amalgamation of the thoughts he'd had on the way to school, but exponentially more elaborate. This time, there's a whole flock of birds; a underground community of moles, rabbits and other animals beneath the carefully mown grass; a full-page cloud-making machine; a candy machine; a carnival with musical white bears and rides; and a star-making assembly line.
The amount of detail in the illustrations is quite incredible; this is the kind of book you could stare at for hours, and continue to see new things on each page. The artwork aside, the message resonates.
"How wonderful," the teacher says, praising his drawing. "What an incredible imagination you have."
In a world where a child can too quickly be shut down artistically or otherwise, a few words of encouragement, and permission to daydream, can make all the difference.
Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer
In The Blood Of The Greeks: Intertwined Souls Series, Book 1
Mary D. Brooks
9780994294500, $14.65, www.amazon.com
Heavy Like - A review of the novel 'In The Blood Of The Greeks'
"War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate" - Marvin Gaye
'In The Blood Of The Greeks' is the first book in the Intertwined Souls series of books written by author Mary D. Brooks. The story is set in a small town in Greece that had to bear the excesses of Nazi regime during the Second World War. Mostly a character driven plot, we follow the adventures of Zoe, a young angst ridden member of the Greek resistance movement and Eva, the daughter of the local German Commander. Even though outwardly these two characters are so different from one another, they unite to help Jews escape the country. And soon the indifference and hatred towards each other turns into a warm friendship and love that keeps them safe during this tumultuous period.
The narrative takes its time to describe the locales the story is set in and the emotional and mental characteristics of its main characters. This actually helps in establishing each character's identity and lets the reader connect with important segments within the story. This also ensures that the character's tears and smiles become your own. And instead of jumping into a different time frame and painting the world in black and white where Germans and Nazis are bad and lesbian romance is true and good, the author explores various important themes within the narrative. The juxtaposition of war torn land and hatred torn minds and the presence of good and evil on both sides are explored in a subtle but successful manner.
The book has a wonderful cast of well etched out characters like Father Haralambos, Stavros, Reinhardt and Henry among others who all stand out and bring crucial momentum to the story telling. And the centerpieces who take complete control of the book's narrative are the lead protagonist Eva Muller and Zoe Lambros. The author's dramatic and emotion rich writing ensures that you will root for both characters equally.
There's a lot of quietness surrounding Eva, even her fury is silenced and subtle. The author introduces her as a cripple but we soon find out that she is emotionally crippled as well because of the inhumane violence she had been subject to in the past. Zoe on the other hand is like a pocket dynamite that is ready to go off at any moment's notice. She is young, idealistic and masks the trauma and pain of losing her family to a marauding group of invaders. She is the one character in the book that gets all the damnedest lines to say and the one you will cheer and applaud all the way through. A key scene that showcases the writer's flair and skill is their confrontation scene in the cellar when they meet face to face for the first time.
The author has successfully managed to provide a keen insight into factual events through a well narrated fictional story.
Where Shadows Linger (Intertwined Souls Series Book 2)
Mary D. Brooks
B00VQHFO5M, $2.82, www.amazon.com
Milk & Honey - A review of the novel 'Where Shadows Linger'
"Love is an act of endless forgiveness; a tender look which becomes a habit." - Peter Ustinov
Author Mary D. Brooks's novel 'Where Shadows Linger' is the second book in the Intertwined Souls series of books. It's a continuation of Eva & Zoe's adventures in Australia leaving the turmoil of the Second World War behind. Although this new land offers them many opportunities to follow their dreams, they face numerous challenges while setting up a new life and identity together. And when unwanted elements from their past shows up at their doorstep, they will have to rely on old and new friends to overcome them.
Often when you pick up a book from a long fictional series, you expect to see a 'recap' or 'the story so far' in each sequel. These are not without any merit because they are helpful to a first-time reader catch up with the story. But for a 'follower' of the series, such flashbacks often offer a quick nostalgic trip and soon turns into annoyance over re-reading the same parts. But thankfully this is quite tolerable in the case of 'Where Shadows Linger' and it's something new and even returning readers will appreciate.
If it was the serene and yet troubled countryside of Larissa, Greece that we got to explore last time, this time it's Sydney, Australia where all the action takes place. An interesting aspect of the narrative is the continuing racist and homophobic prejudices our characters undergo in spite of a change in scenery. The author seems to suggest that prejudices are prevalent in both seemingly illiterate and backward countryside as well as in a modern and metropolitan city. It just goes to show that bad seeds can sprout and bloom in every culture and it isn't area or race specific.
If the first book was about two characters getting to know each other and slowly falling in love. This time around considerable time has been spent in establishing the couple's lifestyle and exploring their day to day life moments to establish the characters as ones rooted in reality. You can easily identify with their dreams and struggles and life in the post war era. But sometimes you will feel if all this could have been established in a slightly more condensed manner.
Eva and Zoe continue to shine and rarely breaks character even when they are dealing with emotions as diverse as facing death threats to making love to each other. A few interesting and new characters join the cast and we also see the return of a couple of favorites from the first book. Mary's precise and unique voice for each character ensures that you identify with each of them and yet see them as part of this big diverse family.
Wonderful writing and great characters make this a great follow-up novel to 'In The Blood Of The Greeks'.
Hidden Truths (Intertwined Souls Series Book 3)
Mary D. Brooks
B00WLB8GLQ, $2.81, www.amazon.com
Back Home - A review of the novel 'Hidden Truths'
"Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition." - James Baldwin
Mary D. Brooks's 'Hidden Truths' is a fictional story set in post WWII Australia and Greece. At the heart of it lies an emotion rich, soulful love story between two women. Having come a long way since the troublesome Greece episode that coincidentally brought them together, they now find themselves on a ship heading back home. And here they run into people that ties them to their past and the reader also gets to discover explosive secrets about one of the main character. This is the third book in the Intertwined Souls series of books.
Hidden Truths for a new reader is a wholesome fictional book that never feels like the third book of a big series. The story has been adapted to include a lot of information and back-story about each character and you can very well use this book as an introduction to this series without missing out on anything substantial. But for followers of the series, Hidden Truths can be described as a bridge book that in effect tells the story so far for about 90% of its length and then introduces some startling revelations towards the end. And for the first time in the series, this book ends on a cliff-hanger note after hitting the reader with some shocking news about one of its main characters.
What works for this book and the series in general is the free flowing narrative. The author has tremendous skill over her craft and keeps the reader engaged at all times. There's never a dull moment and she achieves this with the help of some truly stand-out characters. Eva and Zoe appear life-like and their love story isn't overtly highlighted as lesbian love and retains all that's great of fictional romances. Irrespective of your sexual orientation, characters like these are going to induce a bit of daydreaming and fantasy in reader's minds. And in this episode since they have already been together for quite some time now, they've even started exhibiting each other's characteristics in certain situations. The supporting casts have a more muted role to play this time considering their overwhelming presence in the previous book. And we get introduced to a new character in Theodore, Zoe's missing brother from the war and he occupies the space occupied by Henry in the previous edition.
The revelation of Eva's past and the subsequent entry of a couple of characters should make up for interesting reading in the next edition. The characters have come a long way since we've been introduced to them in the first book and the fact that they continue to excite us speaks a lot about the author's success with them.
Awakenings (Intertwined Souls Series Book 4)
Mary D. Brooks
B00X4S5122, $2.79, www.amazon.com
Reunion - A review of the novel 'Awakenings'
"Nothing changes until people decide to do the things they must, in order to bring about peace." - Shannon L. Alder
'Awakenings' is Mary D. Brooks's fourth novel in the Intertwined Souls series of books. The story continues from where it was left off previously and we finally learn about Eva's mystery shrouded past. The time spent in Larissa and Germany also turn out to be a major turning point in the lives of the novel's protagonists. Because here they find closure from past nightmares and also catch a glimpse into a beautiful event in their future together.
Coming off what can only be described as a restrained storyline of book 3, 'Awakenings' is jam-packed with action and adventure. And thankfully it hasn't forgotten to base it around a riveting narrative like the series is famous for. We are rushed straight into the grand mystery that was hinted about in the earlier book and it will come across as a bit of shock. That being said, the book retains the witty anecdotes and one-liners one is accustomed to from this series and it provides many light moments in the narrative. The prime focus this time around lies on the events leading up to the revelation of the big secret and how Eva deals with it. Eva's past has always been shrouded in mystery and hasn't found much mention in the previous books but here it's explored in great detail. You should find answers to every question or doubt you may have had about Eva in the past.
Stella and Tessa were two characters that got introduced towards the end of the previous book and here they have a substantial role to play in the narrative. Their similarities with Eva and Zoe go beyond the blood relation they share with them and are sort of an appropriation of how Eva and Zoe would be like when they get older. A lot of other characters turn up in the form of Eva's extended family and friends who all provide crucial input to solving the riddle that was Eva up until now. This novel also sees the entry of two characters in the form of Eva's uncle Dieter and Grandmother Beatriz, the dreaded duo who have often remained in the shadows of the previous book's narrative. Their entry and subsequent high octane dramatic scenes provides Zoe and Eva with some long overdue closure.
'Awakenings' has a fluidic narrative that utilizes some finely written dialogue pieces to raise questions and answer them to move the story forward effortlessly. Even though the story this time comprises of a lot of background information and key plot points, it's still an effortless read and the kind of book that makes you want to explore the other books in the series as well. Eva and Zoe continue to be these wonderful characters that we've grown to love and they provide us with plenty of moments to cheer them.
Lensfogger's BEST: A Super-Hero's Collection of Humor, Satire & Short Stories
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781511665513, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Dodger's Fables - A review of the book 'Lensfogger's Best'
"To be free means always leaving... or returning to a place where leaves never fall." - Rich Shapero
Roger Blake's 'Lensfogger's Best' is a collection of anecdotes, allegories and short stories centered around a fictional character. The author has created a superhero character in Dodger Lensfogger whose super powers go beyond the ones you will find in comic books and films. He is a photojournalist who reports various stories and phenomenon that are meant to surprise and humor us and, more importantly, make us think. We suspect that Dodger Lensfogger and all his characters embody the many facets and fantasies of the author himself.
From the title to the front cover of the book, there's nothing that says ordinary or that it's just another humdrum fictional novel. It's designed to catch your attention and provide a refreshing break from your preconceived notions of what a book should be. It manages to amuse you and also makes you think while you are at it. It views life from a different perspective, which is perhaps the author's main intention.
Dodger Lensfogger assumes many identities while appearing in these episodes and often alternates between the first and third person to narrate his stories. Although he is introduced as a superhero, whereby we quickly draw up a caricatured image of a six foot tall hunk in tights in our minds, the very first story shatters any such trepidation and prepares us for the journey ahead.
Dodger connects with the reader as a gentle soul always compelled to do the righteous thing. He is sometimes naive and oblivious to the realities around him - characteristics that lead him on his strange journeys. It seems like he exists in a different space and time from us, and we the audience are merely a spectator as he hops from one remarkable experience to another. There's also an air of improbability and oddity about him, perhaps the only things he shares with his cousins from the DC and Marvel universe. Yet there's something very likeable about him because he presents us with these situations and stories that are relevant and discussion-worthy, making it a contemporary and modern book.
The episodes themselves don't seem to follow any structural order and are seemingly random in their appearance. But to enjoy the book you needn't read this book in a conventional cover to cover style either. At first sight there's nothing binding these stories together, but look closely and you will feel the aspirations and angst of a liberal and rational mind at work behind them. 'A Thanksgiving for Contemplation' and 'Faces' are a couple of stand-out stories that deserve a special mention here.
One of the main takeaways from a book like 'Lensfogger's Best' has to be the cerebral challenge it throws your way. And like life, there's a steady mix of happy and sad stories in here to keep you emotionally engaged at all times. This superhero's main skill is his ability to engage with the audience and that should be reason enough to read more of his adventures.
Teenagers Playing Grown-Ups: Choosing the best solution for your unplanned pregnancy
Kazand Investments Pty Ltd
M.A.M.A - A review of the book 'Teenagers Playing Grown Ups'
"You never understand life until it grows inside of you." - Sandra Chami Kassis
Karen Chaston's book 'Teenagers Playing Grown Ups' tackles the subject of unplanned pregnancy among teenagers. Although an unplanned pregnancy can be a challenging time for a woman at any age, it can be even more so for a teenager whose brain isn't developed enough to take an informed decision or think ahead of the consequences of their decision. In the four stories in the book, the author shares the experiences of four young women who chose different paths like marriage, abortion, single motherhood and adoption while dealing with their unplanned pregnancy.
The book recounts the experiences of four women who went through an unplanned pregnancy during their teenage years. These girls and their testimonials are all different from one another and have nothing in common except for the honest depiction of emotions by the author. Karen has also highlighted stories of mothers (including herself) who have overcome the heartaches and stress related with unplanned pregnancies and who have then gone on to achieve their dreams and have successful careers. In an easy to follow template, she provides great wisdom and inspiration to young women dealing with a new life growing inside of them.
Karen's writing, especially in the two segments where she utilizes fictional characters (a compilation of many real women she met as part of her research) is spot on and brilliantly captures the mind of a young pregnant woman. Although predominantly a pro-life book, 'Teenagers Playing Grown Ups' also has a segment on the option of abortion and the experiences of woman who went ahead with it. The book stresses heavily on the point that once you have made a decision, you should move ahead without second guessing or doubting yourself.
It's interesting to note that the protagonists in the author's stories dealt with their pregnancies during an era when quality information wasn't easily available and when the society's attitudes were orthodox and regressive in nature. While we have come a long way since then in being able to access vast amounts of information anytime, the society still manages to generate feelings of loneliness, worry and shame in the minds of the young unwed pregnant girl. So books like these continue to be relevant and are a blessing not only to the pregnant girl but also for the boy in question and their families.
The author has tried to convey that children are a blessing and that we must learn to think outside of our preconceived notions of what a family should look like and move forward with acceptance and love in our hearts. And any book with such a positive message gets a double thumbs-up from my side.
The No-Drama Manager: A Commonsense Approach to Being A Better Manager
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781470007225, $15.00, www.amazon.com
Ascendancy - A review of the book 'The No-Drama Manager'
"Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them." - John C. Maxwell
Eldon N Spady's book 'The No-Drama Manager' is a handy guidebook to managers everywhere and those aspiring to step into supervisory and leadership roles. It's a book which a rookie manager can use to take on a challenging managerial role, and it can be used by veteran managers as well to iron out the chinks in their management style. It's designed to offer the simplest of solutions to even the complex problems that you are likely to face in the company during your tenure.
The author states in his book that he has years of experience working at various managerial positions (as a general manager, executive vice president and president, each of which were the top spots in different companies). He also mentions that in his long career he often was hired to step into companies that were facing various managerial and financial troubles and his no-nonsense approach to management helped turn around the fortunes of these firms. This is a mighty big claim for anyone to make but when you go over his management 'mantra', you feel anyone with the right guidance, especially the kind that's offered in this book should be able to replicate it with great success.
Written in a simple and easy to understand language, the author covers a wide range of topics that are bound to help a person in a managerial position. The topics covered are arranged in chronological order giving top billing to issues that you as a manager must first look into and then progressing to issues that are most likely to crop up at the new work place. But for an experienced manager simply looking to update or improve their management style, they needn't read the book cover to cover and can choose to read specific chapters instead. All chapters have intriguing titles and are filled with examples and little anecdotes from the author's long professional career to further augment the topic covered in a particular chapter.
The topics covered include the various small but significant deeds that a person aspiring to be a good manager can do. These include understanding that being a manager doesn't mean bossing people around and how to be firm without being authoritarian. Other personal touches that you as a manager can use include being honest - not to run away from your mistakes, and having the humility and good sense to applaud the good work in others. The author says that as a manager you must also be a good listener, which will help you better understand your employees and firm, and help you anticipate future problems. He also says that a process should be initiated wherein management decisions are shared freely among employees instead of them finding out about it through gossip and outside sources. Other significant topics include motivating employees, creating a sense of team unity, how to hire and fire properly and dealing with a diverse workforce.
People working in a corporate set-up and those aspiring for a managerial position should benefit immensely from this book.
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
George M. Guess
State University of New York Press
State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246-0001
9781438456676, $90.00, 230pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Directed at state and local financial managers, "Government Budgeting: A Practical Guidebook" presents, in a short and succinct manner, a sampling of the major tools used to deal with current fiscal problems. George M. Guess (who teaches public affairs at George Mason University) provides examples from a number of states and localities and explains how to use them in diverse situations. At the end of each chapter, cases, exercises and/or questions are provided for further study. The chapters cover the major topics needed by today's practitioners: core concepts and definitions of budgeting and financial management; how to analyze the revenue budget and evaluate revenue sources; how one might plan expenditures and prepare an annual request; how capital projects should (and should not) be planned, analyzed, compared, placed into a capital improvements program, and financed; and the critical topic of budget implementation. Without claiming that practical tools can resolve every problem, "Government Budgeting" suggests that if all stakeholders used such analytic tools the outcomes might be better for the general welfare.
Critique: Informed and informative, "Government Budgeting: A Practical Guidebook" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. As comprehensive as it is 'user friendly', "Government Budgeting" is very highly recommended for professional, governmental, community, and academic library Public Policy instructional reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Government Budgeting" is also available in a Kindle edition ($29.95).
The Definitive Personal Assistant & Secretarial Handbook
Kogan Page USA
1518 Walnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9780749474768, $24.95, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Placing special emphasis on career development and learning, "The Definitive Personal Assistant and Secretarial Handbook" by Sue France is the ultimate guide for all management, personal and executive assistants, and secretaries. Now in a newly updated and expanded third edition "The Definitive Personal Assistant & Secretarial Handbook" covers all the skills needed to career progress, offering advice and help with time management, networking, relationship management, communication, and confidence. Featured is a new chapter on how to use neuroscience tools to work through personal weaknesses and primed behavioral traits, and contains even more practical help with minute taking, telephone and mobile communication etiquette, and presentation skills. With free downloadable online resources to aid the day-to-day running of an office, this comprehensive and accessible guide is the perfect desk companion to grow as a professional PA or office manager.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized, and presented, "The Definitive Personal Assistant & Secretarial Handbook" is as complete and comprehensive as it is informative and 'user friendly'. Very highly recommended for personal, professional, corporate, community, and academic library Business Studies instructional reference collections, it should be noted that "The Definitive Personal Assistant & Secretarial Handbook" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.48).
Shadows Strike (Immortal Guardians)
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, New York, New York, 10018
9781420129823, $7.99, 320 pages, www.amazon.com
"Shadows Strike", book six in Dianne Duvall's Immortal Guardian series, is imaginative, witty and downright sexy.
If you've ever had the same dream more than once, you can probably relate to U.S. law enforcement agent Heather Lane's dilemma. But, what happens when the dream is so real you take watch in a field to make sure it comes true? You meet Ethan, the man who has haunted your slumber for the past year, as he battles sinister predators in his plight to keep the innocent safe from and oblivious to the existence of vampires as well as his Immortal Guardian brethren.
As usual, Dianne weaves a brilliant story of love found and threatened to be lost. The beauty of the Immortal Guardian series is the constant awareness of good versus evil without the cheesy, in your face good always wins bologna often found in paranormal romances. Yes, good wins the war in the end but some battles are lost. Duvall cleverly presents what could happen in a world where humans and gifted ones were infected with a symbiotic virus.
Like past installments in the series, Seth, David, Bastien, Roland, Marcus and all of the usual players are present - ready and willing to put their lives on the line to save humankind from preternatural threats. Heather is a strong heroine, often risking her life to protect Ethan - an extremely sexy, funny and loving hero.
Dianne Duvall's "Shadow's Strike" is an easy, quick read that will leave you panting for more as you embark on Heather and Ethan's journey to love, while they fight to save the human race.
The Life We Bury
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, New York 14228
9781616149987, $15.95, 302 pages, www.amazon.com
"The Life We Bury", Allen Eskens' multiple award-winning, debut novel is a thoughtful, compelling narrative that entertains and enlightens.
Determined to do well in life in spite of his past, Joe Talbert goes to college with the hope of leaving behind an emotionally trying alcoholic mother. His love for his autistic brother makes it almost impossible. Faced with completing a writing assignment for English class, Joe develops a relationship with Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran and convicted murderer who has been medically paroled to a nursing home.
As Joe delves into the information necessary to write Carl's biography, he finds himself immersed in the sickly old man's life story. Eventually unconvinced that a man with Carls's moral compass could commit a heinous, murderous crime, Joe goes on his own hunt, uncovering information about the man, the murders and himself.
Allen Eskens' work is as poetic as it is thought-provoking. The characters, even the ones you want to hate, are so human you find yourself with feelings of empathy, compassion and hope. "The Life We Bury" is not just a good read. For those struggling with regret, forgiveness and blame, it is a necessary one.
If You Only Knew
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373784974, $14.95, 416pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Letting go of her ex-husband is harder than wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate expected...especially since his new wife wants to be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this isn't exactly helping her achieve closure, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll start her own business and bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life...and maybe even find a little romance of her own with Leo, her downstairs neighbor, a guy who's utterly irresistible and annoyingly distant at the same time. Rachel's idyllic marriage, however, is imploding after she discovers her husband sexting with a colleague. She always thought she'd walk away in this situation, but her triplet daughters have her reconsidering her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' perfect marriage as a shining example of patience and forgiveness; but to protect her sister, Jenny may have to tarnish that memory - and their relationship - and reveal a family secret she's been keeping since childhood. Both Rachel and Jenny will have to come to terms with the past and the present and find a way to get what they want most of all.
Critique: Author Kristan Higgins is a master of the romance genre and "If You Only Knew" is another terrifically entertaining and thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library Romance Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "If You Only Knew" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).
Glen Alan Burke
210 60th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
9781938467851, $19.95, 330pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Jesse Savorie stood out at the all-white Alabama school known as Jesse Rulam Elementary not because he was dirt poor, or big, and not even because he was gifted in natural and supernatural ways. Jesse stood out because he was black in an all-white school, in a time when slavery was still believed and whites only mattered. The sheer evil meanness wrought by the people of the hick, red neck, Alabama town would have thwarted the plans of most humans. However, Jesse was no ordinary human. He was on a mission that was slowly revealed to him and those who were around him. He was faster, stronger, smarter, and especially, blessed. He used his mysterious abilities to help others and to teach hard lessons, the only lessons that some people can understand and learn from. Amidst the brutality and hatred thrown at him, Jesse shines in football and friendship. If only he can survive the hangman's noose and the forces of evil, his destiny may be realized, and his life may have miraculous effects upon the world he lives in.
Critique: Impressively well written and presented, "Jesse" is a compelling read from beginning to end and denotes author Glen Alan Burke as an extraordinary writer of impressively original literary talent. Strongly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jesse" is also available in a Kindle edition ($0.99).
The Guilty One
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476757834, $16.00, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump -- if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to. Maris's safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman's boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter's killer. Wracked with guilt over his son's actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump? With a man's life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she's finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of "wife," "mother," or "mourner." But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?
Critique: Impressively well written and presented, "The Guilty One" is a riveting read by a master storyteller and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Guilty One" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.99).
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace
Matthew J. Grawitch & David W. Ballard
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9781433820526, $69.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The psychologically healthy workplace has received much public attention in recent years. But how exactly can a psychologically healthy workplace be created and maintained? What steps can organizations take, without sacrificing the bottom line, to build a culture that optimizes long-term value for employees, management, and shareholders alike? In "The Psychologically Healthy Workplace: Building a Win-Win Environment for Organizations and Employees", eleven scholars focus on the complex interplay between employee and organizational outcomes across five key intervention areas, including: Employee involvement fostering creativity and autonomy of employees, and encouraging involvement in organizational decision-making); Work-life balance providing employees increased flexibility in when, where and how often they work, as well as assistance in navigating life challenges outside of work; Employee growth and development career development and programs to increase competencies; Employee recognition monetary and non-monetary awards in response to significant achievements; and Health and safety promoting healthy behaviors alongside prevention, assessment, and treatment of potential health problems.
Critique: An exceptional volume of original and seminal scholarship, "The Psychologically Healthy Workplace: Building a Win-Win Environment for Organizations and Employees" is an essential and core addition to academic library Business and Psychology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Stephen J. Bahr
750 First Street, NE, #700, Washington, DC 20002-4241
9780871014610, $46.99, 220pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Each year approximately 600,000 individuals are released from prison in the United States. How do they reintegrate into society after their release? Are there any programs to help prepare inmates for reintegration during incarceration, and which of these programs are effective? What are the differences between the people who manage to break the cycle of release and re-arrest and those who return to prison, despite their efforts at a successful reintegration? These are some of the challenges that individuals face after being released from prison or jail. In "Returning Home: Reintegration after Prison or Jail", Stephen J. Bahr (Professor of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah) presents results of his interviews with dozens of parolees who shared their life experiences about being released from prison and managing reintegration. Professor Bahr explains the challenges faced by former inmates after they are released; including finding living arrangements, dealing with mental health and substance use issues, and avoiding relapse and re-arrest. He also explores how race, gender, and social context affect outcomes. Although there are existing resources, Professor Bahr provides a more comprehensive look at the process of reintegration using both qualitative and quantitative data to address these major concerns. "Returning Home" will serve as an excellent resource for practitioners, researchers, students, and individuals who have friends and family members that have been in jail or prison, and are attempting to reintegrate.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Returning Home: Reintegration after Prison or Jail" is both an informed and informative work of seminal scholarship. "Returning Home" is very highly recommended for professional, community, and academic library Criminology reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
The Occasional Diamond Thief
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 CANADA
9781770530751, $14.95, 290 pages, http://www.edgewebsite.com
On his deathbed, Kia's father, an interstellar space trader, entrusts to her a diamond from the planet Malem. The problem is that it is very illegal for any offworlder to possess a Malemese diamond; the penalty is death. In order to get away from an unpleasant home life, Kia engages in the occasional theft to get money to pay for translator school.
Kia is caught by Agatha, part of the Order of Universal Benevolence; sort of like the religious police. Kia is sent to Malem, as Agatha's translator. Malem is a cold, wet planet, in great contrast to Kia's dry, arid home world. Malem recently got over a plague which may, or may not, have been started by Malem's planetary neighbor. Among the thousands of casualties was the Queen's young daughter. She blames Kia's father for not reaching the planet quickly enough with the necessary medicine.
Kia learns that she cannot, for instance, go into a local tavern and say that she found the diamond lying on the ground. Diamonds are passed down from one generation to another, with the recipient keeping it for their entire life. She has to find its rightful owner. A young child contracts the plague. The requirement is that she is quarantined, alone for seven days, in the Plague House, a stone house in the middle of a swamp. At the end of that time, she either walks out of the House cured, or someone goes in to get her dead body. Agatha volunteers to enter the Plague House to take care of the child, even though it means almost certain death. While she is in there, Kia begins to get the idea that the High Priest is using the Plague House, and what it represents, to mess with the facts, and keep the people on edge. It involves Agatha not leaving the Plague House alive. Does Kia find the diamond's rightful owner? Does Agatha survive the Plague House?
This one is really good. It's easy to read, and very well written. Having a main character of color certainly helps. This is recommended for teens, and adults.
The SHIVA Syndrome
193 Avenue SE, High River AB, T1V 1G3 CANADA
9781771551311, $5.95 (ebook), 526 pages, http://burstbooks.ca
Beau Walker is a brilliant psychological researcher with a strong dislike for military authority. He is practically forced onto a military aircraft by Burton Grimes, the source of his dislike. Along with several other eminent scientists, he is taken to what was a secret research facility near Moscow.
Something happened to cause the total destruction of the facility and the nearby town, at the cost of several thousand lives. Whatever the cause, this was not a "normal" explosion. The crater from a normal, even nuclear, explosion would not be still growing. A normal explosion would have blown the nearby trees outward, not inward. A normal explosion would not create a time warp inside the crater. After investigating the best they can, the group gets back on the plane.
They are taken to a Very Top Secret research facility inside a mountain in the California desert. Experiments are being conducted in parapsychology, with the intention of creating people who can, for instance, set off explosives from a great distance away, or perform cuttingedge genetic engineering, with their minds. That is what the Russian facility was doing. At the exact moment "it" happened, an American nuclear powered space shuttle in orbit vanished, and several other such anomalies happened all over the world. Back in California, the same complex is conducting research to create extremely lethal toxins (not just "regular" Ebola, but "super" Ebola), and genetically created hybrid super soldiers, with an explosive device implanted in their necks, in case of death.
The group manages to escape, along with Adena, the first psychic test subject, and her two children. Of course, the military will not let them go so easily. On several occasions, the children show that they are the next step in human evolution. The final confrontation takes place in an abandoned town in Nevada.
It is not easy for any author to sustain the reader's interest for almost 500 pages, but this author does an excellent job at it. It covers a number of subjects, from psychology to physiology to government conspiracy to santeria. Much of the book is very technical (the science can get a bit overwhelming), but the last part turns spiritual. This is a gem of a book, and is very much recommended.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
What Pet Should I Get?
Random House Books for Young Readers
1745 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York NY 10019
9780553524260, $17.99, 48 pages, www.amazon.com
Kay and her brother visit the pet shop because their dad said they can pick out a pet. After considering the array of pets to choose from - dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, birds, rabbits, fish, and even a yent -- they can't make up their minds. But they have to be home by noon so they must decide quickly. The pet they get will keep readers guessing.
Released 24 years after the death of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), "What Pet Should I Get?" will inevitably be stacked up against his previous library of children's books. The publisher's end notes reveal that his long-time art director Cathy Goldsmith (and the art director for this book) felt the manuscript and artwork were created around the same time as "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish," because the two kids are the same in both books. The illustrations in "What Pet Should I Get?" are vintage Dr. Seuss. According to the end notes, when the manuscript and illustrations were discovered, the sketches were finished in black and white. Goldsmith made the wise decision to use the same color scheme as "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" as the outcome delivers the joy of classic Dr. Seuss to his adoring fans.
However such revelations invite comparisons. Since the end notes describe Seuss as a perfectionist who "revised his text over and over and over again," it is safe to assume the manuscript was unfinished because he wasn't alive to revise it. And that is where "What Pet Should I Get?" disappoints. To jog your memory, "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" follows Kay and her brother as they travel here and there and near and far visiting a menagerie of exotic creatures with unusual habits. The rhyming text of "What Pet Should I Get?" lacks the tempo and cadence of "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish." In fact, at times I do recall it did not seem like I was reading Dr. Seuss at all. Sorry, I couldn't resist because that's about how clumsy the rhyme scheme felt - like it was written by someone posing as Dr. Seuss. Also missing is the crescendo into a madcap macrocosm of zaniness that readers love about his books. Except for brief mention of a yent, "What Pet Should I Get?" never cuts loose on a wild tangent that is so quintessential Seuss. Despite its imperfections, "What Pet Should I Get?" is a fun story with a relevant theme, "make up your mind," and a satisfying tribute to an American literary treasure.
Neighbors From Hell: An American Bedtime Story
Jan Frel and John Dolan
Illustrated by Taras Kharechko
1240 W Sims Way #124, Port Townsend, WA 98368
9781627310123, $14.95, 24 pages, www.amazon.com
"Neighbors From Hell" is billed as a picture book for adults in the spirit of "Go the F*ck to Sleep," except by different authors. Young Dan begs for a gory bedtime story about monsters -- yes, this story is told in rhyme. While telling him all about their seven monstrous neighbors who have ruined their lives, Dad breaks the news that they've lost the house and will be moving in with Grandma.
Reading about the seven sleazy neighbors brought to mind the seven deadly sins. Rhonda the reality star is envy. Shady Steve the slumlord is sloth. Mike the maid service goblin is lust. Lobbyist Bob the prison profiteer is gluttony. Jane Munney the bitter day trader is wrath. Shelley the real estate snake is pride. And Paul the mortgage loan officer is hands-down greed. Read the "Neighbors From Hell" and see if you agree. Play the seven deadly sins game with your friends.
Kharechko's watercolor cartoons highlight all the ruthlessness and decay of a declining suburbia a la "Mad" magazine. "Neighbors From Hell" is farcical social satire that parodies the downfall of the middle class with demented humor.
Bug in a Vacuum
320 Front Street West, Suite 1400, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3B6
9781770496453, $21.99, 96 pages, www.amazon.com
Melanie Watt incorporates the five stages of grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross model, into this simple, sweet story about a fly that gets sucked up in the vacuum cleaner. Over forty elaborate 2-page spreads bathed in color, detail, and melodrama tell the amusing inside story. Sadly for Napoleon the dachshund, his red stuffed dog suffers the same sudden catastrophe as the bug. With the switch of a button the bug's world and Napoleon's life are changed forever. Each stage of grief is cleverly depicted as a product selling a momentary respite from the intense emotion. Denial is a can of repellent spray that "wipes out the ugly truth." Bargaining is a box of detergent to "wash away your troubles." Anger is a frozen dinner that is "quick and messy." Next up there's despair contained in a book of sad stories. Finally we find acceptance in a box of tissues offering comfort and "no regrets." Watt takes readers into the belly of the vacuum cleaner to watch the bug chew up the scenery as he laments and agonizes through his misfortune with a plethora of pathos. Even though Napoleon suffers in silence, his valiant rescue attempt creates a pathway to freedom and a new life for everyone. While "Bug in a Vacuum" pokes fun at the fickle finger of fate, it also shines a ray of hope in a world that sometimes sucks.
Martian Mustache Mischief!
Illustrated by Joshua Dawson
First Light Publishing
14402 Twickenham Place, Chesterfield, VA 23832
9781514777589, $7.99, 29 pages, www.amazon.com
Run for your lives! It's an invasion of ketchup-eating, fuzzy caterpillars from Mars! But none of the townspeople take them seriously. So the wily creatures resort to drastic measures to satisfy their craving for ketchup and the Martian invasion turns into the invasion of the body snatchers. Joshua Dawson's comical illustrations capture the bewilderment on the faces of the townspeople as they eat, sleep and breathe ketchup. Brian Rock entices young readers into the melee by giving them a tongue twister to shout at the woolly invaders. Can a tongue twister save Earth's ketchup before the Martians devour it all? "Martian Mustache Mischief!" is an amusing tall tale that goes to astronomical heights to explain why Mars is called the red planet.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Bibi and Babu in Africa (Bibi & Babu Travel Series Book 1)
Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen
Whistler House Publishing
9781940145464, $15.29, 68 Pages, www.amazon.com
When Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen decided to take their first holiday to Africa together in their 70's, the experience was not only amazing, but life changing.
I read this book with my Grandsons and before they opened it, the first thing they wanted to know is "Who are Bibi and Babu? Of course I couldn't tell them, however we soon discovered that they are the Swahili names for Grandma and Grandpa.
Sitting together, reading the story, it seemed as if we were sitting with Bibi and Babu, looking at their 2013 Africa holiday album, it was lovely to see so many natural photos.
The book starts with an introduction to Africa, and then Bibi and Babu set off for their adventure in Tanzania and Kenya. As we worked our way through the book, the children loved seeing and learning about other children who live a totally different life, on the other side of the world. They were especially fascinated finding out about the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre in Pasua, Tanzania and the work which goes on there.
Being children who are bought up with animals, seeing the amazing African animals in their natural setting was a part of the book they loved, and I was pleased that it gave me the opportunity to explain how important conservation is for their continued survival.
This is a lovely book for children. For me, the most important part of it was that there were no cartoon animals and imaginary places which don't exist, this couple's journey was real. By being presented as it is, it makes Africa, it's peoples and wild life come to life in a believable way, and teaches children, whether they are read it, or read it themselves, the wonders of the real world.
Oh, and Babu won the respect of our two little boys, but you'll have to read the book to find out why!
Blood on the Water
By Light Unseen Media
9781935303503, $12.00, 264 Pages, www.amazon.com
This book opens with young blood vampire Justine Kroft finally getting her revenge on Bill Service, the man who killed her mother twenty years before, and she is watched over by her friend, and elder vampire Simone Gireaux.
Avenged, the two vampires and their friend Teresa Diaz begin a road trip to discover what has happened to Teresa's daughter Antonia, who has been abducted. They have been told by the Stephan Sinakov that she has been sold, but is she really still alive? Or has something worse happened to her?
Arriving in Boston they go to Kazza's Psychic Store, and Simone asks the witch if she will use her magical powers to help them, but Kazza uncovers much more when she discovers that Teresa has magical powers.
As the three women set out on their quest, fuelled by a mother's love, their kinship, and determination, their journey is a dangerous one which takes them across land and sea.
Desperate, hunted by vampires and tracked by oracles, they must call in favours from friends and use every magical power, sorcery trick, and gift they possess just to keep alive.
Yet their determination never waivers, but do they find her, and if they do, will she be dead, alive, or something else?
If you love vampires then you will love this book, it is an action packed adventure, full of magic, with a sprinkling of romance and plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat right up until the very last page.
The Lazy Cook (Book One): Quick and Easy Meatless Meals
Blackbird Digital Books
9780993092251, $11.99, 132 Pages
Great, simple recipes using fresh ingredients.
Roll over Delia Smith, here comes the next food goddess.
If you're a normal human who would love to eat good fresh food from around the world which is quick to prepare and packed with flavour, then this is the book for you!
No fussy weighing, no rigid rules just delicious meat free recipes (fish and seafood is included). There are plenty of vegan and gluten free recipes, and the author has also taken the time to put notes on the bottom of others as to how they can be adapted.
What I loved about this book is that it embrace the wonderfully friendly character of this well-known author, making you feel as if you are sitting in her kitchen and she is telling you about each dish and its origins whilst it is being prepared.
Susie Kelly's memoir's and travel books have given her fans many insights into her varied life in her own very entertaining way. This new book not only offers a wide range of flavoursome recipes using fresh ingredients, it is also interspersed with interesting stories as we meet the characters who, and situations which have inspired them.
This cook book I know will become one of my all-time favourites. I know this because the recipes kept calling to me to try them as I read it. Well, tonight I will try the first one and I am looking forward to having my taste buds awakened to new flavour combinations and ideas.
Can't wait until book two....
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
9781508951032, $18.40, 466 Pages
A journey through the Gates of Hell!
Errors happen every day in life, and in death...
This is why there are Soul Retrievers, special people whose job it is to enter through the gates of Hell and retrieve the souls of those who have been sent there by mistake. The training is rigorous and can take years, and often the ability to be one is passed down through generations.
Getter is a soul retriever, and so was his Fathe-in-Law. This time his mission is to find the soul of Brittany, a little girl aged ten who was sent into Hell by mistake.
But, what is it like entering the Gates of Hell? What do you find on the other side?
Well, the author of this gripping supernatural thriller takes the reader on a wondrous journey through those gates, into strange lands with mysterious landscapes. Where Getter comes across magical creatures, demons, unbelievable beings, and souls tormented in unimaginable ways.
As Getter travels deep into the very depths of hell on his quest he meets other characters like the jolly Scotsman Gregory who is trapped there, and other Lifers like himself. Soon he finds himself teamed up with Sneaker a vampire who is on her own quest to find a young boy, Little Bobby Johnston.
As they fight for survival in the realms of Hell, they find allies in strange animal and discover that ancient legends are true. Then, to his dismay, Getter discovers through Reech, a strange being called a Flyer, that it is his destiny to fulfil a great prophecy, but what is it?
As the underworld prepares for an epic battle, will the Soul Retrievers manage to find Brittany and Bobby? And, even if they do, will they be able to escape from Mephisto, the Helland Security Chief and enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
Only by travelling this amazing adventure with them, through the pages of this epic tale, will you find the answers to these questions. Will they all survive, and if they do, will it be to live a 'normal' life or will they die in Heaven or Hell?
This is a fantastic story with every page being cram packed with adventure and magical creatures. It has an exciting plot, amazing characters, and it kept me spell bound until the last page. I would thoroughly recommend it.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Smash Words, Inc.
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16, Los Gatos, CA 95032
9781310499029, $TBA, eBook
Marcus decides to leave the big city to move to a small town to find a more peaceful life. Since he has moved he has been living off his savings. The money is quickly disappearing so he knows it is time for him to find a job.
When he sees a bartender open position at a local bar he decides this is the perfect opportunity that will allow him to have the money to properly settle down. One of his greatest wishes is to find a woman to build his new life with. With his sex appeal the word quickly spreads across town of the new man in town.
His first night at work is jammed packed with women who wish to see the new man on the block. There is one that catches his eye and the two find themselves spending a one night stand. When she has to leave for a business for two weeks he didn't expect her friend to move in on her territory.
Marcus finds himself caught in a whirlwind of activity. Trying to please a group of women is not what he had originally intended. Which one will catch his eye enough that he would want to see them in his future?
RISKY INTENTIONS is one outstanding novel. Women will not be able to resist Marcus. He exhibits irresistible charisma, mixed with a high dose of sex appeal. This combination is lethal to the heart strings. S.M.K. Knight is an outstanding author who has written a very compelling novel. I was pleased to learn that this is the first book in a series. The second title is this highly addictive series includes:
Risky Intentions 2
15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16, Los Gatos, CA 95032
9781311411730, $TBA, EBook
Marcus life seems to be going in the right direction. He has a job he loves an apartment that offers him the home he has always dreamed of, and the perfect woman by his side sharing all of it. Unbeknownst to him his perfect world is built on fragile glass.
Brianna is hiding secrets from Marcus. If it is revealed she knows that it will destroy their relationship. Will the past surface to the future and destroy a love that was meant to be? Or will their love survive weather all storms for it is one that is everlasting?
RISKY INTENTIONS 2 is just as riveting as RISKY INTENTIONS. Marcus still has that irresistible charm that captivates his audience. I was impressed with the level of suspense and emotional impact this book offers. Once again, S.M.K. Knight has proven that RISKY INTENTIONS 2 has a strong voice in the romance world. After reading both of the RISKY INTENTIONS books I am convinced this author puts her readers pleasure first in creating each one of the books in this series.
The Haunting of The Hockomock Swamp
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500599416, $6.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Janie Williams finds herself intrigued by a centuries old legend that revolves around several towns in Massachusetts. She is new to the town and she learns the story centers around The Hockomock Swamp. It involves children experiencing epilepsy symptoms that put them in a trance like state.
Being a newcomer to the parts, it is difficult to find the right lead to the story. Also she has to convince her boss this story is one that will be of interest to the public. Janie is determined to prove the story has sale potential. What she discovers is a paranormal experience of an old Indian ghost named Metacom.
Janie finds herself mesmerized by Metacom and all of his unique paranormal elements. Before her eyes he is able to shape shift into a tree-headed dragon, then in a blink of an eye he turns himself into a flying pterodactyl. Metacom is a terror to behold and is wreaking havoc on the children's lives.
Will Janie be able to stop Metacom from destroying all that comes into his path? To complicate her life further, she finds herself falling quickly in love with her boss. Will she live to see the newfound love blossom?
THE HAUNTING OF THE HOCKOMOCK SWAMP is my new 2015 favorite paranormal read! This book is one outstanding experience. Once I started the book, the pages quickly flew through my fingers. I was so intrigued by this story, because the author has the unique ability to combine real life historical events into her fiction writing. To say this story was magnificent is an understatement. There is a wealth of every type of genre in this one book. It explores the paranormal, mystery, and an unforgettable romance. My hat is off to H.E. Kline for writing this unforgettable book!
Supernatural Hero (Book 1)
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
9781493758234 $6.96 pbk / $0.99 Kindle 159 Pages
Andy is a sixth grader who is having difficulty fitting in with his classmates. He has been labeled the class nerd; everyone seems to want to avoid him. Even his parents and sister finds him hard to understand him at times. There is only one person in this world who accepts him for who he is and that is his Grandfather.
Andy finds strength and encouragement in his Grandfather's words. He gives him hope that one day he will have a normal life with love and acceptance of everyone that encounter him. Then the unthinkable occurs when Andy learns his Grandfather has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has a few days left.
When Andy Grandfather dies, he feels a huge void in his life. Heartbroken he feels a sense of abandonment. Then the unthinkable happens, his Grandfather's spirit returns and he is determined to show Andy how to make new friends, and find the love of his life.
Will Andy's Grandfather succeed in giving Andy the courage and knowledge he needs to be able to make new friends? Will he prove to his family that he is worthy of their love?
SUPERNATURAL HERO is one exceptional book. There are a so many life lessons that can be learned from this one book. I feel this book should be incorporated into the required reading for all six graders. This book deals with common problems faced by many six graders which include: bullying, feeling of not being accepted, peer pressure, and death. All of these are very serious problems, and I feel this book does an excellent job in dealing with each one.
Eran Gado has done a magnificent job in writing this book. He has a unique writing style that allows the reader to gravitate towards his words. I was highly impressed with the characters of SUPERNATURAL HERO. Each one was introduced and added a special magic to the overall story. I feel this book is one that will leave a lasting impression once the last page is turned.
The Silver Strand: Book 1 in the Mastermind Academy Series
L J Clarkson
Indicated Publications and Promotions
B013PMKJXC, $TBA Ebook
Isabelle Tresdon's does not have the normal life of a twelve year old. One day her hair developed a mind of its own and a silver strand sprouted out of nowhere. It was covered with pink dust and radiated a sparkle that was noticed by all.
Unbeknown to Isabelle her hair contains a source of magic. She discovers that she has had the ability to transform particles of energy into matter. Soon she is admitted to the Mastermind Academy where she learns that she only has five days of life remaining.
Isabelle refuses to standby and allow her life to be cut short. She enlists the help of two Masterminds to help find a way to stop her destruction. Will the trio be strong enough to eliminate the magic forces that are intent on seeing her destroyed?
Calling all Harry Potter fans - The Silver Strand: Book 1 in the Mastermind Academy Series is calling your name. This book radiates with high action adventure. It features an unforgettable young female whose adventures will keep you glued to your seat.
I was highly impressed with L.J. Clarkson's unique writing style. It is evident that her skill as a writer is one that is well polished. Writing a book with elements of paranormal and a young adult is a skill not many authors are able to make work. This series is one that I predict will have award winning potential.
The Stolen Life of a Cheerful Man
9781496983633, $19.76 pbk / $4.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
From a boy of a young age to a man full grown this book showcases how a struggle exists for love and acceptance. Dimos finds himself caught in world where he wants nothing more to reveal his true identity but fears at what cost it would be to his family and friends.
There are many twists and turns that following Dimos throughout this book. Each one plunge him into a deep dark existence where the reader is left guessing what next could occur in his roller coaster existence.
THE STOLEN LIFE OF A CHEERFUL MAN delivers a strong voice that demands to be heard. The author has done a magnificent job in presenting a character that knew he was different from everyone else. How he is able to break through and live his life to the fullest is commendable.
Dimitris Politis is an author worse words will long stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. I found there to be many life lessons that are explored in this one book. Also noteworthy to mention is the amount of emotional powerhouse scenes that was played out. I also loved the setting of Ireland and Greece, two of my all-time places I have visited. Dimitris Politis is an author that I feel is definitely one to watch. I feel his writing offers a refreshing and unique experience.
Skip's Game Plan
c/o America Star Books
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
9781451257984, $24.95, 204 pages, www.amazon.com
Starting a new school is not enjoyable for most students. For high school students it can be a nightmare. However, Calvin Hawkings is conscientious, works hard, and focuses on what he should in high school, his classes. His friends are his books and one is always close to him. He is not athletic even though he is close to seven feet tall. Why isn't someone who is almost seven feet tall on the basketball team?
Skip Weber is on the basketball team and plans to play on the varsity team this year since he is now a junior. Most of last year's team graduated leaving only one senior for the varsity team. That leaves room for many juniors making varsity this year but no one has any height.
Skip is determined to make this varsity team the best possible this year. Could this new student be the answer to a successful year for the basketball team?
Skip lives, eats, and breathe basketball. His classes are not really important to him, basketball is his world. Wouldn't it be great it this Calvin played basketball? This could be just what his high school team needs.
Calvin has never played basketball. Skip is determined to make Calvin his friend, but what do they have in common? Can there be a friendship between a scholar and an athlete? Can Skip turn a tall scholar into an athlete? Would Skip learn anything from this relationship
Skip decides to make friends with Calvin. Could Calvin be the basketball center the other players dream about?
Skip's Game Plan is a book about high school basketball. As the friendship develops between Skip and Calvin, they learn how friendship can benefit everyone. Perhaps Skip could utilize some of Calvin's study skills as Calvin learns about his basketball skills.
Skip's Game Plan is outstanding with explaining basketball skills and what is needed to develop a winning team. The sporting observations and skill building ideas in the book would benefit any team.
I did thoroughly enjoy reading this novel but was bothered by one aspect. What high school boy is not interested in girls and cars? Apparently the ones in this book have little interest in either. Is that realistic?
Who should read this gem of a novel? Everyone who enjoys a well-written novel set in a high school without foul language, sexual situations, or violence. Even high school students would enjoy Skip's Game Plan, especially those who play or dream of playing basketball.
Being that this book was published through a self-publication, there are some spelling errors that occasionally distract from the story.
The author, Steve Sigafoose retired from working at the Council Bluffs' Nonpareil. He is a former sports editor who covered high school and junior college games over thirty years in Leavenworth, Kansas and Rome, Georgia as well as Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Skip's Game Plan is a great book for everyone to read, learn a little basketball strategy, and to thoroughly enjoy.
The Swan Gondola
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781594633430, $16.00, 456 pages, Trade Paperback, www.amazon.com
A hotair balloon has just crashed into a farmhouse on the lonely Nebraska prairie begins the adventure in the unconventional tale by a local author called The Swan Gondola. The unintended pilot, Ferret Skerritt tells of the circumstances of 1898 Omaha World's Fair and his escapades to the two elderly spinsters who reside at this home, Emmaline and Hester. Their home was the unfortunate landing spot for this stolen hotair balloon.
With a taste of Baum's The Wizard of Oz, this tale begins to unwind as a storyteller slowly reveals each layer of this unconventional adventure.
Ferret Skerritt is a ventriloquist/pickpocket. He earns money as a wandering artist attaching himself to various traveling productions. With friends who possess a multitude of bizarre talents both natural and learned, many of his motley crew of friends prove that descriptions and appearances can be deceptive.
Love at first sight does exist for Ferret and he is immediately smitten and obsessed by the beautiful actress who is part of a traveling company. He must meet this elusive, but charismatic woman. Like many who have this ability, she has a secret that is kept in her traveling carpetbag.
The Swan Gondola tours the fair through Ferrit. Fortunately throughout the book, the reader is privileged to attend the 1898 Omaha World's Fair. Chicago had been the host city of a previous world fair but Omaha was not established and respected. The city was still young and more often than not, resembled a Wild West Show. Many early business wanted to attract the world to this new city and financed this fair in their investment of the future. This entire fair complete with a lagoon in the northern part of east Omaha was meant to be completely temporary to display the world's best, newest, and most modern attractions.
The story is told by Ferret who is not always honest or likeable. The perspective is through Ferret's eyes and his eyes see things that most of us would never notice. He observes pickpockets and the light criminal side.
How can Ferret attract Cecily to fall in love with him? He arranges for their first true date in the swan gondola on the lagoon after the fair closes for the day. This tale of history and adventure is full of surprises and twists with unique characters that are visually realistic.
The author, Timothy Schaffert is a Nebraska native, currently residing in Omaha while teaching writing and literature at the University of Nebraska located in Lincoln. The Swan Gondola is his fifth novel following The Coffins of Little Hope, The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters, Devils in the Sugar Shop, and The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God.
Who would enjoy this book? The Swan Gondola is for those readers who appreciate well-researched historical fiction in an unusual tale.
The Incidental Spy
Libby Fischer Hellman
The Red Herrings Press
9781938733840, $7.99, 181 pages, www.amazon.com
How does anyone become a spy? Oftentimes it is not the person that chooses the profession but the profession which chooses the person. Lena became a spy because of who she was, who she knew, and how she could be controlled. Lena was forced to be a spy. She felt that she had no choices.
Being a Jew has frequently been dangerous throughout history in many places in Europe. This was especially true for those families who lived in Europe prior to the Second World War. For Lena, her life is no different than many people of the time, only much more complicated.
Lena is in love with her childhood sweetheart who is also Jewish. Josef just doesn't look Jewish but Scandinavian. The two know that their souls are destined to be together and truly believe that somehow, they will be together. Their intention is to marry, but the threat of the Nazi party throughout Europe force the families to move.
Lena is fortunate. Her family sends her to an aunt living in the Chicago area. She expects her family to join her eventually as well as Josef. However the Nazi movement overtook the people of the neighboring countries faster than expected. Lena had to learn to connect with her family and friends through the infrequent letters. Sometime she feels guilty leaving her love ones behind.
Lena's aunt arranges to have her educated in English and even assists her in a job at a local university as secretary to the physics department. Her aunt knows that Lena needs to be busy and to develop a new life in her new country.
Lena's new life changes everything including marrying another man and having his child. She is happily adjusted to her new life when her husband is killed. Suddenly being s single parent supporting a child makes life difficult. She just doesn't realize how difficult and complicated will become. Can Lena be forced to become someone that she does not choose to become?
The Incidental Spy is a page-turner. Viewing the situations of the time period with what would become the Manhattan Project through Lena's eyes makes the reader contemplate what would be their choice in the same situation. Unfortunately, Lena has no choices, forcing her to become a pawn in a dangerous game in becoming a spy.
The story is short, but superbly developed into a logically thrilling story with well-developed characters that seem too human many times.
The Incidental Spy is a riveting tale for anyone who enjoys a haunting and memorable story.
The Bone Clocks
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781400065677, $30.00, 624 pages, www.amazon.com
"The world wasn't made of stone, but sand. I'm afraid. One bad storm is all it will take."
Unfortunately this is the reality of life. Our lives are simply blown into sand with the wind constantly changing directions, reshaping our priorities. We like to think our lives are carved in stone. Perhaps that is why we are so resistant to change. Think of how much less stress each of us would feel, if we would simply shift with the sand.
Horology is the study of the measurement of time with the skill and art of making time pieces. Is time consistent everywhere or is it relative? Do we change through time? Is time the cause or the effect?
Holly Sykes seems like the typical teenager. She argues with her mother about anything and everything. She does have an unusual gift. She is able to talk to beings that are not present for most of us. Who does she talk with?
As a child she connected with "the radio people". She has a psychic sense but has yet to discover if this is a gift or a curse. Can it be both or neither?
The Bone Clock feels like multiple unconnected events and people for much of the book. Once the reader starts understanding the connections, this evolves into a page turner.
The author, David Mitchell has had two of his novels on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize and The Bone Clock was on the 2014 long list. He is the author of Ghostwritten, Number9Dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. He lives in Ireland with his family.
The book is composed of six novellas featuring different characters explaining things from their perspective. Holly is the focus of the first novella but makes appearances in others. At first the six stories which progress into the future in ten years progressions seem unconnected and at times rambling. However their significance does eventually appear into a single conclusion.
The characterizations are phenomenal with the reader easily visualizing each character with their flaws and natural gifts.
The pacing with each of the novellas is unevenly bothersome. The first story regarding Holly flows quickly and evenly. Then the pace dramatically slows. This can easily cause a reader to lose interest but this book is definitely worth reading as the pace picks up.
The Bone Clocks is fantasy dealing with possession and psychic gifts and warring psychological factions.
A Killing in Iowa: A Daughter's Story of Love and Murder
San Francisco, California
9781614520184, $1.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
How many of us have questions about our family's past? The problem is often that the question needed to be asked years ago or the only person who could have answered the question is now dead. So how do you find these answers? That is what Rachel Corbett is asking.
Rachel grew up in eastern Iowa. Her mother like many others was a single parent who had temporary dads. One of these dads who seemed more permanent and more fatherly to her ended up murdering a former girlfriend and then killing himself. To Rachel this was confusing. This man was always loving and caring in her household. Why the complete change? Could the victim have been her mother?
Scott Johnson was the man and the killing happened on May 13, 1993 in Vinton, Iowa. This is a small town where life seems to stand still. Everyone knows everyone. There is little change throughout the years. The village looks very similar today as it was in 1993.
Rachel Corbett has been haunted by this event and has constantly questioned this man who was a caring father to her. She returned to the town to find answers to the change in this man.
What has bothered Rachel throughout the years was that she didn't understand the reasons for the murder/suicide. Scott Johnson had been a loving and caring man when he was living at their house for years. Could the murdered woman have been her mother? What had caused this violence? Scott had been with Rachel's family earlier the day of the incident. What had changed?
Eighteen years before the author wrote this memoir, she could never have imagined the violence or the actions by Scott.
Rachel Corbett now lives as an arts writer in New York. She has written for the "New York Times," "The Nation," and the "New York Observer" as well as being the news editor at "Art Net Magazine."
A Killing in Iowa beautifully describes much of the state, especially the rural areas explaining the multigenerational homes and towns where everyone does know everyone and many things have not changed for years.
A Killing in Iowa journeys Rachel's past childhood as each person slowly reveals their perspective to the author. As the truth through various sources is revealed, Rachel still discovers that the answers she is searching for just are not there. Many are a waste of her time as is realistic in any investigation. Being that she was a child at the time of the murder, she needed to read the newspaper and police accounts to attempt to find out why. Why had this man who had been kind and caring to her change into someone violent?
Unfortunately sometimes answers to the questions from the past cannot be resolved. The tale of the investigation is completely haunting.
How well do any of us know anyone?
Go Set A Watchman
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062409850, $27.99, 280 pages, www.amazon.com
How does anyone write a sequel to a legend? To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards. So how do you write anything else?
To Kill a Mockingbird awoke the world to the truth the everyone in the South knew existed, but no one ever had put into words.
Go Set a Watchman continues the story with Scout returning to her home for a two-week vacation. Now she is twenty-six. How has she changed since she was eight? Does she still wear overalls?
To be fair to all the hype and criticism of this book, I decided to reread To Kill a Mockingbird. It is amazing how much I enjoyed the book since reading it back in junior high. I also question how much I probably did not understand in the book from a teenager's perspective. I strongly felt I needed to read two books to see if I also questioned whether Harper Lee actually wrote both books.
What is disturbing is what Go Set a Watchman is missing. Very little is given as to Scout's life in New York City. Doesn't the reader want to know how she lives there, how she works, who are her friends, and many other questions?
Also To Kill a Mockingbird obviously went through a long editing process. Few books today are given that attention which can turn a book into greatness.
The story continues while missing some major characters from the first book. It takes a while to reveal why they are not in the story. I really missed these supporting characters and unfortunately no one replaced them. Harper Lee loved her characters in the first book. In this one, the love is not there.
Go Set a Watchman has flashbacks of incidents that happened supposedly in Mockingbird
and during Scout's other school experiences. This feels like snippets just to fill the space. The relevance to the story is not a continual line but jumping between the present and the past. These flashbacks greatly enrich Go Set a Watchman. The problem is that these memories although significant change the tempo in reading due to their significance.
The sequel has the same number of pages but close to half the words. Larger print was utilized to make the book as a physical duplicate of the first book.
The book feels as if someone combined possible story events into this book without the love of the characters. However, the does change in the last third of the book. When Uncle Jack is explaining the Civil War to Scout, there is no question in my mind that this voice is Harper Lee. The frankness, truthfulness, and awareness of the Southern culture changes dramatically in this section. This is someone who truly understands the South.
As a mixed-child with a mother from the South and a Yankee father, I loved her vision of the South.
The book was worth reading just for those five pages. That is the exquisite writing I expect from Harper Lee.
Would I buy the book again? No. Will I buy any future finds of Harper Lee's? Probably not.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451417299, $9.99, 512 pp, www.amazon.com
Linda Fairstein is noted for the meticulous research she does for each of her mysteries which take place in a different New York City landmark. And she outdoes herself in this novel which revolves around the century-old Grand Central Terminal, both above and below ground, well along the tracks north. In fact, it is so chock full of little or even unknown facts that it boggles the mind. Who knew, for instance, that there is an elevator connecting the below surface area to the other landmark known as the Waldorf-Astoria? Or that the elevator was large enough to carry the polio-crippled FDR and his automobile from the tracks below up to street level and to allow him to enter the lobby?
The plot begins with the discovery of a woman, nude, raped with her throat cut from ear to ear, in a suite in the Waldorf Tower. Two additional murders occur, one a man who lives in the underground byways along the tracks and another woman, murdered in the same manner as the first, found in a private railroad car parked along the tracks. The crimes seem to be associated with Grand Central Station, and complicating the situation is the expected arrival of the President in a few days by rail.
Obviously, the denouement takes place in the terminal, but not until Mike Chapman and Alex Cooper pick up where they left off at the end of the previous book in the series (after a slight detour). As in previous installments, the plot is tight, writing succinct, and characterization and dialogue superb. Obviously, the novel is recommended.
(The author's newest, "Devil's Bridge," is due out on August 11, 2015.)
2560 Ninth St., Ste. 318, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781619025783, $15.95, 464 pp, www.amazon.com
The idea of juxtaposing the mafia, a hit man, and a Reform Jewish temple in Las Vegas forms the basis for this outrageous but satisfying novel. It is filled with a variety of characters and a plot that carries the theme with aplomb. While the concept may appear to be beyond the realms of reality, the author carries it out with grace and humor.
It all begins in Chicago, where Sal Cupertine is an extraordinary hit man for the mob, efficient, careful and never caught. Until one day he is assigned to meet with some purported drug sellers who turn out to be FBI agents and, for the first time, his face becomes known, so he has to kill them for self-preservation but has to flee the Windy City hidden in a refrigerated truck. Sal ends up in Las Vegas, undergoes facial surgery and, because he has a retentive memory, is turned into Rabbi David Cohen, part of a new racket.
While many of the Talmudic and Biblical references, which colorfully emit from David's (Sal's) lips throughout the novel, may be questionable, they set the tone for the incredible plot. If there is one drawback to the novel it is the final passages which to this reader did not ring true, although, supposedly, are intended to provide a morality to this mafia story.
A Fine Summer's Day
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062237125, $26.99, 358 pp., www.amazon.com
This novel is sort of a prequel to the Ian Rutledge books that carry the series forward. It begins with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo, the prelude to the start of World War I months later. While England and the rest of Europe waited with baited breath while Germany and Russia postured, there were several apparently unrelated murders committed in various English localities.
Despite the fact that higher-ups "closed" the cases, Inspector Rutledge discerned certain common elements and pursued the cases against direct orders and in the face of possible discipline. Doggedly, he follows his instincts in what turns out to be his last case before enlisting in the army as an officer and sent to France, as we know from earlier novels in the series.
In the existing previous novels, Rutledge is single and is haunted by his experiences on the Western Front. In "A Fine Summer's Day," he becomes happily engaged to a pretty woman his sister and others think a shallow person. But they appear to be very much in love and look forward to getting married by Christmas. Of course, other events take precedence. As in the entire series, the mother-son authors provide a realistic account of the times, writing smoothly and carrying the plot to a most satisfactory conclusion.
Last Winter, We Parted
Translated by Allison Markin Powell
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956141, $14.95, 224 pp., www.amazon.com
This novel is a convoluted story which probably deserves a higher rating, except for the fact that I suspect it will be a difficult read for the average reader. It is a twisted tale of a young writer who is assigned to interview a man convicted of the murder of two women and write a book a la "In Cold Blood."
But as his efforts progress, nothing is as it seems. The man in prison says he committed the murders by burning the women, but doubts arise whether or not he actually committed the deeds. The interaction between the writer and the inmate is intense, with each seeking to delve deeply into the other's psyche.
This is a compelling but complicated story, not to be read lightly. For those who wish to tackle it, this reviewer would recommend "Last Winter, We Parted." Another recommendation would be a previous novel by this author, "The Thief."
Max Allan Collins
Titan Books/Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
144 Southwark St., London SE 1 OUP
9781783290840 $9.95 (11.95 CA$), 245 pp., www.amazon.com
In this novel, one of a long list of Quarry adventures, there are more twists and turns and red herrings than an Alpine road or a Baltic fishing catch. Max Allan Collins outdid him self, adding spice in the form of sex and plot complications galore. It begins when the hitman, Quarry, and the broker, sent by the latter's contact, Woody, are subjected to a drive-by shooting after meeting to discuss a potential job in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Quarry goes to the southern resort, filled with strip joints and casinos, to bump off Mr. Woody's partner, Jack Killian. It seems Woody claims Killian is upsetting the status quo and expanding dangerously, and getting out of hand with violence. Quarry becomes Killian's bodyguard in an attempt to get close to him to perform the hit.
Collins began the series in 1976, and Hard Case Crime has now published five books. "Choice" is filled with lots of suspense and sexuality and is in the Mickey Spillane mode of storytelling: slambang, graphic detail with a complex plot. Lots of fun to read and savor.
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250074737, $16.00, Paperback, 304 pp., www.amazon.com
A recurring theme throughout all the previous novels in this series is the haunting feeling Inspector Erlendur has over the disappearance of his younger brother during a blizzard many years before. The boy was never found, and Erlendur and his parents moved away to Reykjavik. From time to time, Erlendur returns to the East Fjord area where he grew up and strides around the moors in an attempt to find some clue to his brother's assumed demise.
In this novel, we find Erlendur camping out in the derelict building where he grew up. Only this time, through a chance meeting on the moors he finds a clue and becomes involved in a quest not only to discover what happened to his brother, but also as to the disappearance of a young woman in 1942 under similar circumstances. It is apparently pretty common for such occurrences during snowstorms. Around the same tine, a group of British soldiers were lost in the wilderness, some found, others having died because of the severity of the elements.
All the novels in the series are so well-written that it is always a pleasure to read them. And "Strange Shores" is a masterpiece of psychological achievement, providing insight not only into Erlendur's psyche, but into all the characters playing a part in the plot. Erlendur is in some ways similar to other Scandinavian protagonists: dogged, persistent and unconventional in his approach to solving a mystery. However, he is a much more sympathetic person than others of his type.
Night of the White Buffalo
Berkley Prime Crime
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425264669, $7.99, Paperback, 304 pp., www.amazon.com
The creator moves in mysterious ways in this Vicki Holden/Father John O'Malley novel, which begins with an unknown person confessing to a murder in the Confessional booth and soon thereafter Vicki finding a rancher shot in the head in his truck on the side of a road. Further mysteries crop up in the form of missing ranch hands from the murdered man's buffalo breeding ranch. A more astonishing event at the ranch is the birth of a rare white buffalo, considered a sacred creature by the Arapaho and other Native Americans as a message from the creator.
Intertwined with all this activity, of course, is Vicki's law practice in which she is currently defending a client involved in an assault case who she suspects may be in some way responsible for rifle shots on several pickups intended to scare nonnative cowboys away so jobs would become available for Arapahos.
The Wind River series is replete with sensitivity toward the Arapaho people and their way of life. This is especially obvious with the legend of the white buffalo. Vicki is a sympathetic character made more poignant with her somewhat ambiguous relationship with her lover, a high-powered lawyer more accustomed to dealing with oil and gas corporations on behalf of Native American tribes than Vicki's low-end clients needing wills, defense for minor crimes and the like. The novels in the series are always interesting and easy to read, and are recommended.
For the Dead
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616956165, $15.95, Paperback, 368 pp., www.amazon.com
In an Afterward, the author notes this novel has as its protagonist Miaow, the young street girl adopted by Poke Rafferty and his wife, Rose. Inasmuch as a great deal of descriptive material is devoted to her actions and the "attitude" inherent in a 12yearold (or is it 13?) developing personality, as well as her role in helping purchase a cellular phone with incriminating pictures, that is true.
However, as in prior entries in the Poke Rafferty series, it is up to him to solve the mystery, which begins with the murder of two "retired" police officers who ran a murder-for-hire operation for years out of the department. And Poke finds that the deaths are related to the reason for their retirement, which was a coverup of the acts to shield the department. And now, the "investigation" again is attempting to prevent daylight from exposing the higher-ups in the department from exposure.
As in past novels in the series, Poke is resourceful and Rose is, well, Rose. Miaow is depicted as a typical teenager. What seems a little different this time is the lack of the atmosphere of Bangkok and Thailand, the tastes and sounds which usually are so real. In a sense, introduction of Bo (the boy who originally found Miaow and saved her from the streets) and his "home" for street children fulfills this customary element, and the rest is not essential for the story.
Cane and Abe
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062295392, $24.99, Hardcover, 353 pp., www.amazon.com
The author, a practicing Florida attorney, has written several excellent legal thrillers, keeping readers in suspense, especially with dramatic courtroom scenes. Unfortunately, this novel fails to live up to the standards set in previous efforts. It is understandable. Mr. Grippando set out to write a standalone in a different mode, reflecting the big bad boys in the sugar-growing industry. However, the novel is neither fish nor fowl.
The main character, Abe Beckham, is a top prosecutor in the Miami State Attorney's office, and is involved in an attempt to identify and capture a serial killer of white women married to or sleeping with black men. But an FBI profiler suspects Abe as a "person of interest" with the first of many unnecessary complications in a forced plot. About the only meaningful relevance of the sugar industry is the bodies left along land owned by the largest producer of sugar cane and another victim, a black attorney, with whom Abe had a one-night stand, who worked for the company, also murdered. And on and on does the author introduce extraneous information and red herrings, often neglecting later to tie it all together.
All this is not to say that the novel is not written ably, with Mr. Grippando's usual customary clarity and forthrightness. But the story could have been made simpler and, perhaps, it might have made more sense if the conclusion was explained more fully, rather than just presented and left floating in the air.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250058638, $26.99, Hardcover, 308 pp., www.amazon.com
Raymond Donne, an ex-Brooklyn cop and now a school teacher, is in the last two weeks of the summer break when his vacation comes to an abrupt halt. In the middle of the night, a friend asks him to take a drive with him since he has made a mistake and wants Ray's help. Before he can reveal anything he is shot dead and Ray ends up with a concussion.
Thus begins an eventful week during which Ray again plays detective. Along the way, he teams up with Jack Knight, another ex-cop now a PI, who has been retained by a top PR executive to find and return, unharmed, his missing 16-year-old daughter. It makes for an exciting plot.
"Dead Red" is the third novel in the series. And if it is any example, having not read the first two, this reader will go back and read them and, more importantly, look forward to the next installment. The book is well-written, the plot tightly constructed, and it is recommended.
The Cinderella Murder
Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476763699, $7.99, Paperback, 400 pp., www.amazon.com
The premise of this novel is based on a television program, "Under Suspicion," investigating an unsolved murder, interviewing and cross-examining the various participants and witnesses, hopefully uncovering new information and possibly even identifying the murderer. The same characters that appeared in a previous book, "I've Got You Under My Skin," inhabit the present one.
The cold case under review involves the 20yearold unsolved murder of Susan Dempsey, a UCLA coed and aspiring actress. The title is derived from the fact that the murder victim lost a shoe while fleeing the perpetrator in Laurel Canyon Park. The story progresses mechanically, and the characters seem somewhat stilted. The novel lists two authors, Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke, but the latter's contribution seems problematical since the writing certainly reads, to this reviewer, more like Ms. Clark's style. I'm guessing that in all probability, Ms. Burke, a law professor, provided the expertise for the legal aspects in the story, the questioning of the "suspects," and the like.
"The Cinderella Murder" is a light read, certainly entertaining and professionally written. Definitely recommended for a summer beach read.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250027177, $24.99, Hardcover, 262 pp., www.amazon.com
The Puzzle Lady Series usually is based on a convoluted plot, and this latest novel seems to embody the wackiest of them all. This is the 15th book since the author conceived the prototype, and the twists and turns in it make an Alpine road look like a straight superhighway. Of course, it gives Cora Felton, The Puzzle Lady who can't solve crossword puzzles, free rein to propound all kinds of theories and barbs and amusing comments before the mystery is solved.
It all begins when a ditzy young woman retains Cora's lawyer friend, Becky, because she fears her husband is having an affair and is planning to murder her. She says he took out a $1 million life insurance policy on her, with a double indemnity clause. Shades of the movie, Double Indemnity, which was serious. Not as amusing as "Puzzled Indemnity," which is anything but. Cora is asked by Becky to investigate, and thus begins the strange journey.
Despite the levity and craziness throughout the novel (much less the series), it encompasses a first rate mystery, worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. All the novels, naturally, encompass crossword puzzle and sudokus containing clues to move the story forward. They are edited by Will Shortz, who performs a similar task for The New York Times. If you haven't read any of this novel's predecessors, this book is a good one to start with. Then go back and read the others.
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780345541376, $28.00, Hardcover, 352 pp., www.amazon.com
The Alex Delaware series features a familiar pattern. Not that there's anything wrong with familiarity. At least until it breeds contempt. Motive, indeed, begins with Detective Sturgis' usual frustration trying to solve a murder, but this time Alex plays the detective, and the LT provides the support. To begin with, a woman is brutally stabbed to death, and the murder scene includes a fancy dinner setting for two. There is no clue as to whether the food ambience is the murderer's MO or was provided by the woman before her death.
So Surgis asks Alex for help. The question does not remain open for very much longer, when a successful and beautiful woman is shot in an office building's parking area and inspection of her home turns up another dinner setting. Now we have the beginnings of a serial murderer, and other bodies begin turning up. The problem facing Delaware and Sturgis: There is no apparent relationship between the victims, except for the office building, and how can that be possible?
But the two trudge on with all kinds of police activity, including stakeouts and Delaware's insights and intuition rising to the fore. The novel is written in the author's usual excellent style, and is well-plotted. Somehow, it doesn't seem to rise to the level of previous books in the series. Let's hope Mr. Kellerman isn't getting tired of his protagonists, and that the next Delaware mystery will again rise to what we've come to expect. Not that this one wasn't an enjoyable read, and it is one which is recommended.
Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot
Reed Farrel Coleman
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425276167, $9.99, 416 pp., www.amazon.com
When an author is asked to write a novel continuing a series originated by someone else, much less a master like Robert B. Parker, fundamental questions must be decided: try to imitate the style and writing, how to maintain the integrity of the characters, and the like. Alternatively, Reed Farrel Coleman, a successful author of a score of books, including the respected Moe Prager series, decided to write a novel in his own fashion while adhering to the character representations of Jesse Stone, Molly Crane and Suit Simpson.
And he achieves his purpose with a complicated story involving a Ponzi-like scheme run by an old friend, his second baseman, Vic Prado, from Jesse's minor league days. Unlike Parker, who used sex sparingly and often as a light touch, this version relies heavily on Jesse and Vic bedding first one then another woman. There is perhaps an overabundance of Jesse's baseball days and the injury that led to his forfeiture of a big league career, but it is an essential part of his background.
The plot begins with the kidnapping of the younger son of an owner of a mutual fund Vic is attempting to take over, and the murder of a young lady with whom he was in bed at the time of his abduction. Other violence takes place along the way as Jesse attempts to find the guilty person and put the pieces together to understand what is going on. To that end, Mr. Coleman achieves his goal, and the book is recommended.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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