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Vanessa and Her Sister
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780804176378, $26.00, 386pp, www.amazon.com
9781408850213, A$29.99, paperback, 352 pages
Ann Skea, Reviewer
"And what if people are shocked that we have no curtains and hold mixed at homes and invite guests who don't know when to leave." -- Vanessa. 23 Feb 1905
In an Edwardian era when entertaining was still very formal and young, unmarried women were still expected to be chaperoned in mixed company, such behavior was, indeed, shocking. So, too, was their practice of calling their visitors by their first names. But Vanessa Stephen and her siblings were independent, modern and determined to live life as they chose.
Who would have thought, then, that their weekly "at home" at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, would become famous as the first haunt of the radical intellectual and artistic set known as The Bloomsbury Group?
Who would have thought that Vanessa, who eventually married fellow artist Clive Bell, would be the first British woman to exhibit her own free-form art, influenced by Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Cezanne, and that her paintings would one day hang in many of the major art museums around the world?
And who knew, then, that her younger sister, Virginia, would marry Leonard Woolf and that she would become well-known, even to people who have never read her novels?
Vanessa Stephen never kept a diary but Priya Parmar has written one for her - a fictionalized version of the eventful years 1905 -1912 which is, she says, "rooted in fact". In it, Vanessa writes of the daily events in her life, of her painting and of dramatic changes in the art world. We meet her brothers Thoby and Adrian and their friends, Lytton Strachey, E.M Forster (Morgan), Ottoline Morell, Duncan Grant and others. She records family travels, and she comments on Virginia's teaching and writing and on her strange and unpredictable behavior.
Interspersed with Vanessa's diary entries are artistic re-creations of tickets and other papers which track family activities. There are some wonderfully camp letters from Lytton Strachey, full of gossip about various homosexual love affairs (not always his own). Also, letters from Leonard Woolf who has taken a Civil Service position in Ceylon but becomes increasingly interested in Lytton's exhortations to return to England and marry Virginia.
Vanessa is quite clear that she is the artist and Virginia the writer, but her own writing is vivid, lively and interesting, and the few times that Parmar creates notes from Virginia it is hard to tell the difference between the two. What does come across very strongly is how difficult it must have been to live with Virginia and how often her mental health was of family concern. All this, although fictionalized, is based on documentary evidence of Virginia's hospitalization, her collapses, and her affair with Vanessa's husband, although there is no record of Vanessa ever confronting her about this as she does in this book.
Parmar does a superb job of giving Vanessa a voice and a character which is likeable and believable. Her vivid recreation of the bohemian life lived by the Stephen family and their friends, strongly based on their actual letters and their work, immerses the reader in their world and is fascinating. Having finished reading the book, I found myself days later wondering how Vanessa and the rest of these people were getting on, as if I almost believed I had become part of the group. And I certainly wanted to hear more from Vanessa about her life and the innovative people with whom she mixed.
Discover Your Soul's Path through the Akashic Records
Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781401948146, $14.99, www.hayhouse.com
Dan Ursini, Reviewer
To find a way to connect with an intelligence larger than yourself is one of the defining impulses of the human community. One of the ironies of the situation is that when we come into contact with such a body of knowledge, the first thing we prove is that our reach so exceeds our grasp, we have no clear idea what to call it. Author Linda Howe uses the term "Akashic Records," and that's plenty good enough for me. In her work, she shares a way to access these Records, along with teachings on integrating this wisdom into ordinary life. Her newest book, "Discover Your Soul's Path through the Akashic Records: Taking Your Life from Ordinary to ExtraOrdinary", focuses on the integration process. Getting her take on how to do this is an absorbing and inspiring experience.
There is so much to respect about her grasp of wisdom: how to find it, and how to gainfully employ it in your own life. She gives her method the charming name, The Pathway Prayer Process, and, in that way, she shows her cards. She sees a direct connection between wisdom and spirituality. Access to the Records is possible through the timelessness of human prayer - in this author's approach, the particular prayer that came to her through inspiration, and which she shares without hesitation with her readers. I have used the Pathway Prayer and can vouch for its wholesomeness and reliability.
"Discover Your Soul's Path through the Akashic Records: Taking Your Life from Ordinary to ExtraOrdinary", with its teachings on integrating spirituality with the everyday--through concepts such as the pillars of consciousness, the inner triangle, and a four-step protocol--can help us find moments of spiritual radiance in the largest and the smallest acts. The whole idea is to be fully alive in the world. Discover Your Soul's Path stays with you, and directs you toward a vibrant life of steady and nurturing satisfactions.
The Improbable War
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780199396276, $29.95, www.amazon.com
Impossible, Improbable, or Inevitable: War Between the United States and China
As the title suggests, the central argument of Professor Christopher Coker's new book The Improbable War: China, the United States & The Logic of Great Power Conflict is that war between the United States and a rising China is improbable, but not impossible. It is improbable because the weight of interests on both sides of the Pacific lean towards maintaining the status quo? it is not impossible because of a general complacency about the likelihood of war.
Professor Coker approaches his topic through historical analogy and argues that the most useful comparison for understanding the rise of China in today's international system is with that of Imperial Germany in the world dominated by the British Empire. Britain's intellectual class thought major war was nearly impossible due to expanding economic connections and the triumph of reason in international affairs.. Germany did not subscribe to the liberal view and was anxious for respect, recognition, and equal authority, and was deeply concerned about its political situation and geographical position. It was unable to conceive of compromising with its foes, and while Germany's leaders did not want war in 1914 - none of Europe's leaders truly did - they did not do all in their power to stop it. Britain's leaders displayed a lack of strategic empathy in not considering Germany's position, and some in Germany thought there might be an opportunity in war for Germany to assuage its strategic concerns. Complacency on one side and national anxieties on the other combined in a catastrophic war.
Much hinges on whether China views itself in the same way as Imperial Germany viewed itself. The Communist Party's sanitized view of history, which emphasizes China's victimization over the last 150 years, it's use of nationalism to solidify its power, its concerns over US actions setting precedents for involvement in the internal affairs of other states, and its twenty plus year effort at military modernization do not provide much hope that China's leaders have a confident view of their national circumstances. On the other hand, the 2013 effort to establish a "new type of major country relationship" may indicate that the Chinese feel powerful enough to cooperate with the United States. Chinese leaders may feel more confident in their position as China's economy recently overtook that of the United States to become the world's largest.
The other historical analogy Coker uses is that of the British Empire ceding global dominance to the United States without resort to war. Great Britain allowed the United States to slowly assume first economic and then political dominion and retained its position by allying with the culturally and linguistically similar new power. As Coker states, that is not a reassuring example for a nation conditioned to believe it has a rightful place to global hegemony. Whether a similar situation can occur between China and the United States depends largely on whether the US can escape and absolutist view of "American exceptionalism" which would believe that any accommodation with another great power is a sign of American weakness. Coker correctly argues that the problems of today and tomorrow - terrorism, climate change, economic crisis - require combined action to resolve, weakening the concept of national exceptionalism. No real alternative presents itself when following Coker's argument: the United States must find a way to accommodate China's rise, even at the cost of its own power and influence.
Particularly striking, and where the essence of Coker's argument is captured, is a short section on the "Aristotelian unities: preconditions, precipitants and triggers." (115) It is impossible to argue with his statement that the precondition of war Sino-American rivalry exists. Whether it is cultural, economic, military, or diplomatic, there is a rivalry between the two powers for leadership of the Asia-Pacific. It is the natural condition of the existing and rising power to be suspicious of one another and to view one's gains as the other's losses. We also cannot ignore the numerous possible triggers of war. Recent history is rife with them, from the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis to the 2013 USS Cowpens Incident. The real area of concern lies in the precipitants. Coker argues that the precipitant of a Sino-American war would be "China's attempts to undermine the relationship between the US and its allies/client states". (115) This is only one possible precipitant, but it is a very real one. If China intends to undermine the status quo in East Asia, we enter troubled waters. If China truly intends only "peaceful development" within the existing structures as Hu Jintao stated a decade ago, then war is much less likely, and the inevitable triggers of war can be managed tactfully by both sides. All hinges on what China wants, whether that conflicts with the system the United States has established, and if so, whether the United States is willing to go to war over it.
A final major part of his argument points to the need to alter the strategic narrative away from competition towards cooperation. Imperial Germany told itself a narrative wherein its power, then nearing a peak, was set to decline and the future lay with the other continental powers unless it took action despite the disadvantages of 1914. Great Britain constructed a narrative wherein the junior Atlantic partner, sharing a culture, language, and history, had finally been raised to maturity and was ready to receive the reins of power. The strategic narrative in the Sino-American relationship has not been entirely clear, and periodic allusions forcible regime change or fomentation of democratic dissidence by the United States, and accusations of a policy of containment by China have made the relationship seem highly contentious. Coker argues that we make sense of the past and try to see into the future by telling ourselves stories, and the story as it stands is not one of a positive partnership between two mature great powers. The strategic narrative shapes our view of unfolding events and develops the precipitants of war. The same event can be seen multiple ways depending on the story we tell ourselves as a nation. When the US sells former naval vessels to the Philippine Navy, China can interpret the action as either contributing to regional maritime security or as aggravating an East Asian arms race. It all depends on whether the strategic narrative in the Sino-American relationship is one of cooperation or conflict. The challenge for both states is to turn the strategic narrative towards the positive. Perhaps the idea of "win-win cooperation" can be resurrected and used to alter the strategic narrative in a constructive way.
As a whole, Professor Coker's work is a highly reasonable study of the current situation in East Asia. Admittedly not a Sinologist, he is a scholar of international relations. He borrows liberally from the literatures of international relations and philosophy in addition to, and this harkens to another of his recent works, war fiction. His use of historical analogies avoids the pitfall of attempting to make direct comparisons, and the connections he draws between the German and British examples help him clearly frame the strategic situations of China and the United States. The final takeaway is that in order to make a Sino-American war improbable both sides must take definite steps to accommodate one another on the world stage and craft a clear narrative that allows both countries to be great powers without resort to conflict. We cannot just idly believe that war between great powers no longer happens.
Paul Robeson for Beginners
Paul Von Blum
For Beginners LLC
155 Main Street, Suite 211, Danbury CT 06810
9781934389812, $16.99, 136 pages
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
Who was Paul Robeson? He was a lot more than just the singer of "Ol' Man River."
A native of Princeton, NJ, Robeson received a four-year athletic scholarship to Rutgers College. He was twice named All-American in football, and also played basketball, baseball and track. Graduating as class Valedictorian (an member of Phi Beta Kappa), Robeson attended, and graduated from, Columbia Law School. His attempt at a legal career did not go well. Robeson continued to play semi-pro football on the weekends, and tried his luck as a stage actor.
He became a huge star on the stage, including almost 300 performances as Shakespeare's Othello. Robeson also became a world-famous concert singer. He couldn't help but notice that during trips to Europe, especially the Soviet Union, he was treated much better than he had ever been treated in America. From the 1920's through the 1940's, Robeson made about a dozen films, including a couple of silent films. On the positive side, audiences could actually see a strong, intelligent black man in the lead role. On the negative side, Robeson's performance was usually the best part of the film. It was otherwise filled with clownish stereotypes about blacks. In frustration, Robeson walked away from Hollywood.
Robeson was not afraid to speak out on political issues, ranging from the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's, to racism in America, to opposition to the Vietnam War. Such activities made him a victim of the 1950's Blacklist, along with having his passport seized. This, plus his wife's diagnosis of terminal cancer, brought on a huge bout of depression. When he was next allowed to travel overseas, the "magic" was gone. There was time in a sanitarium, and a suicide attempt. For the last dozen or so years of his life, he lived quietly with his sister in Philadelphia, and saw very few people.
This is a wonderful book. Robeson's erasure from 20th century history should be on the level of a national embarrassment. This book will start to correct it. It is very highly recommended for everyone.
The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307962959, $29.95, 608pp, hardcover (Knopf)
9780804173667, $16.95, 624pp, paperback (Vintage)
Kindle, $11.84; Audio Book Download, $16.95
Raff Ellis, Reviewer
On March 8, 1971, a small group of amateur burglars broke into the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office and emptied their file cabinets. The story of the perpetrators behind the burglary had remained hidden from public view for nearly 40 years. Quite unexpectedly, two of the participants blurted out their involvement to author Betty Medsger during a routine social encounter. The couple who confessed to the crime hadn't intended to make this admission for it was a secret they and their six cohorts had vowed to take to their graves. Medsger was shocked, and the revelation sent her on a mission to interview others who were involved, convince them to go public, and to tell their story in an engrossing book she titled, The Burglary.
Author Medsger uses the Media burglary as a springboard to discuss not only the excesses of the FBI, but also the CIA and NSA. Along the way she examines the lack of intelligence agency oversight by fawning presidents and a permissive Congress. Her conclusion is that the Media heist became the sine qua non for all the ensuing investigations of the FBI - an unbridled, de facto "secret police" force. The subsequent demythologizing of Hoover and his gang has left a lingering aroma of suspicion surrounding any governmental sanctioned spying on its citizenry. Although this concern waxes and wanes with a largely apathetic public, it was given a significant boost in attention by the recent Snowden disclosures.
The strength of the book lies in its compilation of a series of historical events in one volume so readers can see the linkages between them and how a complete lack of control left an unscrupulous J. Edgar Hoover free to become the unchallenged dictator of American law enforcement. Hoover is shown not only to be a racist and a devious lawbreaking rationalizer, but also one dedicated to self-indulgent prejudices. His personal views mandated who would be investigated, continually spied upon, and/or have their homes broken into and personal possessions seized. His predilection for seeing Communist inspiration in every protest movement--be it anti-war, civil rights, or freedom of speech--guided his activities long after such a "menace" had disappeared. At the end there were more FBI agents and informers posing as Commies than there were actual members of the party.
To most Americans the revelation of illegal secret activities would seem incredulous given the public's innate trust of the government and its vaunted FBI. Faith in that institution had been cultivated and taken for granted for many years, aided and abetted by Hoover's masterful PR campaign. Surely the FBI, the premier arm of the American justice system, wouldn't disregard or break the law, would they? Surely Hoover, the director of this feared and revered agency, wouldn't disregard orders and twist interpretations of laws to allow him to continue illegal activities, would he?
Once the Media files began leaking to the public, first by the Washington Post - where author Medsger was then employed, Hoover went into full court press mode. He tried to intimidate newspaper publishers to not reveal any of the purloined FBI files by implying they would be violating the law and would therefore be prosecuted. He also employed his secret army of spies, many of whom actually worked at newspapers, to help plug the leaks. The panicked director even went so far as suggesting to Congressional friends that a law be passed that would make it illegal to possess or make public these stolen documents. Washington Post Publisher, Katherine Graham, made the heroic decision to break the story despite the rest of the Fourth Estate's initial timidity about taking on the FBI.
Prior to the break-in, whenever questions arose about his agency's activities, Hoover would slyly let his superiors - and anyone else who had notions about investigating him or his fiefdom - know that other damning information in his possession would also have to be revealed. Hoover's death a year after the Media break-in rendered this ploy ineffective. It is assumed that his blackmail files were destroyed by his secretary to protect her revered boss' reputation.
But the real story is about the group of amateur burglars themselves who, regardless of the specter of serious prison time, chose to go ahead with their audacious mission in the hope they could prove that the FBI was illegally spying on their anti-war activities. Not only were they genuinely surprised at the contents of the burgled treasure trove but also in retrospect that the mighty FBI was never able to find out who they were. For all its flaunted "always get their man" mantra, the agency was revealed most often to be an inefficient, bungling group of Inspector Clouseaus. Despite Hoover regularly dedicating 40% of his budget to domestic spying, the Bureau never was credited with uncovering any terrorism plots.
The most disheartening conclusions that one draws from this book is how, even after all the revelations, the FBI remains imbued with a culture that resists oversight and obfuscates investigations into their activities. Their actions seem aimed at not only protecting the legacy of its long-deceased director, but also to preserve its freedom to restrict the freedom of others. The book also points out how the Obama administration has not only refused to dismantle or repeal any of the post 9-11 directives that permit First and Fourth Amendment violations of its citizenry, it has sought to increase them. In fact the government has outright lied about the nature and depth of domestic spying and stepped up the prosecution of whistleblowers. It is doubly discouraging when one considers that Obama is the first president with a Constitutional Law background.
Criticisms of this book pertain to the organization and amount of repetition that one has to endure. The author seems to believe that if something is worth saying once, it is worth saying two or three times. Nonetheless, the material contained in this work is well worth the time needed to consume the nearly 600 pages it occupies. Excerpts should definitely be used in civics classes at all levels of our educational system. It is sobering, and well worth remembering, that the revelations made two generations ago required a criminal act to bring a secretive, law-violating judicial arm of the government to heel. It is important to continually reaffirm that unconstitutional governmental excesses and lawlessness remain a threat to our guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom from illegal search and seizure. These principles are more at risk in the current atmosphere of fear, which is accepted by much of the passive or frightened public.
The clear message of this book is, "Please wake up and don't let this happen again."
The Death of Archie
Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
325 Fayette Avenue, Mamaroneck, New York 10543-2318
9781627389821, $14.99, 99 pages, http://archiecomics.com
I have a major secret that not many people know. I am 63 years old and love Archie, Comic Books. It started when I was five. I remember my sister and I would get 25 cents a week and we headed over to a pharmacy that had penny candy and comic books. I would buy two Archie comic books and the rest was for penny candy. I can't remember what my sister Paula, spent her quarter on. I do know that she could make me feel selfish by not giving her my money. I actually put my quarter in my mouth and when it was going down I began to think maybe this was not a good idea. At least she could not talk me into giving her my money. My parents were not happy with me. They had to take me to the doctor.
Over the years I lost all of my comic books, and then was busy raising my kids and working. Then I mentioned to my youngest grandson that I used to love Archie comic books. He then began to buy me Archie comic books whenever he saw them.
I must say the writing in this book and the illustrations are good. Yet, I am left with sadness as Archie dies. In a world filled with violence why do this to Archie? I bought Archie comic books even when I was a teenager. I must also admit that I also bought Little LuLu and Casper sometimes when I bought Archie. This time I was working part time and spent my own money.
So for all of us baby boomers I must say "R.I.P. Archie, we will miss you so."
The Dark Man
Stephen E. Crockett
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490392837, $12.99 (PB & Kindle), 214pp, www.amazon.com
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Language: English; Genre: Horror
A real page turner.
Can where we live affect the person we become? Do such things as dark forces and evil presences exist, and can they remain patiently at a place for a long time, waiting for their next victim?
In the summer of 1972, twelve year old Scott Clemmons lives on a farm with his parents in the small town of Advance, in North Carolina. What goes on behind closed doors stays there, family affairs are nobody's business but their own, and nobody interferes.
And so, young Scott and his mother live in a state of perpetual fear, bullied, and scared for their safety, under the tyranny of his alcoholic father.
Then, one day he notices a big black bird which speaks to him, and starts to see a mysterious dark man around the farm. Unhappy and scared, at night he has strange dreams... Is he going mad?
As this story unfolds, the tragic events that summer at the farm, and the influence of the big black bird, change Scott's life forever.
However, despite his childhood, as an adult, he returns to the farm and discovers that Jane, the neighbour's daughter is still there. As their relationship develops, they begin renovating the old farm together.
Scott soon discovers, however, that the big black bird and the mysterious man are still there, they have just been patiently waiting for him to return. Also, in the barn, he finds his father's stash of whisky.
From then on, as life spirals into an alcoholic blur and the demons in his head overtake his life, you have to ask yourself is, is Scott imagining it all, or, are there really evil forces at work?
As the horrors increase and his mind begins to lose all sense of reasoning, looking into the mirror, what is he seeing? Is the monster in the mirror really his dead father? The warped imaginings of a mind on the verge of entering insanity? Or, could it be that the mirror really a portal to somewhere even more monstrous?
Well, you're in for an interesting read. This story is very cleverly written, one would think that the answer is easy, however, there is a twist in the tale, and the answer is kept a secret right until the end...
I look forward to reading more of this authors imaginative stories.
Damage Done Suicide of an Only Son
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781496170767, $10.95 (PB), $2.99 (Kindle), 140pp, wwww.amazon.com
The arrival of DAMAGE DONE SUICIDE OF AN ONLY SON, is perfectly timed. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams committed suicide within six months of each other, this year, 2013. Both were artists of the highest order. Both suffered from addiction. Like so, the author's only son - David Lorne Hutchinson, a rock musician, composer and singer. On that "BLACK TUESDAY" (first chapter title) - November 5, 2012, when he shot himself in the heart in the woods across from Gloria and Dave Hutchinson's home, "It was, for us," she writes - "the day the music died." With those deaths, the world at large and the state of Maine (with its high suicide rate) are now shocked to attention. Everyone needs to read this book.
The author speaks with the passion only a suicide survivor could. As a longtime writer, with fifteen books published, she knows how to express the emotions in which survivors could drown without the catharsis provided by talking about them. For example - to release anger. One of the most powerful chapters in the book is: "BREAKING FAITH - The author's letter to David expresses anger at and forgiveness for his self-destruction." Six months after her son's suicide, she writes, "until now, I have been angry only at myself. Now it is your turn. So, you listen, and listen well."
This book does more than tell her son's story as a tribute to him. It gives her account of what she learned and did after her devastating loss. The course of action she took could guide other distraught survivors. That is her purpose - to give us the fruit of her experience and of her extensive research on this heretofore taboo subject. In the chapter SUICIDE UNSHAMED, she deliberately seeks to destigmatize suicide: "If we had been educated about suicide, its causes and warning signs, might we have somehow been able to persuade him to get the help he needed?" she asks about David. She even admits her own initial "unwillingness to state in our son's obituary the cause of his death." Another feature that enhances this educational as well as personal book is additional lists of "Resources for Caring Readers" as well as, on the last page - "A Prayer for Those Who Are Deciding Not To Go On."
After the heartening memorial celebrating "David's brilliance" during which eulogy his addictions were also admitted, the author and her husband were given a surprise. They found themselves the confidants of many people who came out of secrecy to volunteer their own suicide stories. In SEEKING PEACE the author tells us, "A few of them are confessions, stories that have not been told before but kept hidden away like bodies buried in the backyard." I found this chapter, (like the whole book, actually) - illuminating. "The part I want you to know," one woman told her, whose suicide was interrupted, "is this": "Even though I loved my kids. . . I did not give them a single thought . . . My mind was completely taken over by despair. .. . All I wanted was peace."
In addition to sharing this revealing information, the author makes a significant contribution to the literature about suicide. By debunking the cruel idea that suicides don't "go to heaven," in the chapter HOPE SECURED - again with convincing quotes to support her conclusion: "Our son, David Lorne Hutchinson, died at his own hand. And make no mistake, he is with God." - she frees us from "the soft hissings of doubt" we might have about it.
One of the first things the author did was to search for "clues to David's suicide in the family album" but also, in a variety of places such as in the lyrics to his own songs, and in his favorite movies, and the music he admired.
Tenderness for David shines throughout her book, especially in the chapter COUNTING THE WAYS. Alluding to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet, "How do I love thee," Hutchinson relates anecdotes to illustrate how she and her husband have been doing exactly that, in loving their son. She expresses regret that she could "neither find nor write" a poem in that vein, for a child now departed. But I claim that her six anecdotes actually do that, but in a different form: a litany. Each of the six stories ("Often when . . . " or "Once, when . . . ") is framed in the formulary: "We love you for . . . that did not fade away." These include: "the child in you; the originality of your thinking; your dry wit; your inner calm in all emergencies; your patience; your compassion."
In the chapter HOPE SECURED, the author cites for her readers some of the scripture quotes she had written on index cards and left on David's desk - one a day, during the last three weeks before his death. Then, in a manner also similar, again, to a litany, she prefaces each of her wishes, in regard to the scripture passages: "It is possible (I hope it may be so) that God spoke to David . . . "
IDENTITY CRISIS is a compelling chapter indeed. Hutchinson's hard earned wisdom, grounded in raw courage, is uplifting. "We cannot succumb to being secondary victims of a suicide." She notes that it is a matter of choice - "whether we see the suffering thrust upon us by a shot fired in the woods at night as a curse or an opportunity." She asks the questions - "How . . . how . . . how . . . ?" and trustingly answers: "The answers will emerge as we work our way out of grief into a sustainable life." Her advice to herself and to others is realistic and therefore balanced, as she admits they will "never get over it" because she and her husband are "permanently changed."
In the last chapter FINDING DAVID, her relating what happened when a "rowdy group of Harley bikers" arrived at one of David's gigs at the Lone Star in Fort Kent is written with such zest, it's downright delightful. Together with another account, when David and his fellow musician sang in New Hampshire's Oak Tavern, in John Lennon and Paul McCartney style - "That's our son," she proudly, tenderly concludes, adding that David "will be remembered as a singer of life, not death."
The EPILOGUE is poignant and eloquent. Just as throughout the book the author illustrates in her own writing the charming wit she praises in David, she herself now, sounds like a rock star lyricist, in the last four sentences. After repeating the title of her son's original rock song - Any Day Now (the one she came to recognize in the chapter DAMAGE DONE "foreshadowed a suicide") she turns the title around to mean something else: "In time, we will move beyond damage done to make peace with the sun. We will. We surely will. Any day now."
You will weep reading this book - but they will be tears of healing.
The Money Compass: Where Your Money Went and How to Get it Back
Mark Anthony Grimaldi
Wiley & Sons, Inc.
c/o Wiley Professional Trade Group
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
9781118614457, $40.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Ascot Media Group, Inc.
Nobody said you couldn't write your own rules when it comes to finance and investing. The problem has been finding a realistic direction. In Mark Anthony Grimaldi's new book, The Money Compass: Where Your Money Went and How to Get it Back (Wiley & Sons, Inc.), he looks at specific political and financial events that put Americans into complex situations where they were required to make decisions they were unskilled to make, and then gives them the tools that enable them to be proactive about their own money and wealth!
People see the American Dream as a thing of the past and feel frustrated and angry because they're lucky if they can just make ends meet! They know they need help from an expert but feel out of their depth and discouraged when trying to determine the difference between someone's 'opinion' and an accurate financial prediction.
Mark Grimaldi is a national economist who has a natural talent for forecasting economic trends. In fact, he accurately predicted not only what is going on today, but many of the major economic events of the past seven years! He correctly forecast the housing depression of 2007, the recession of 2008, the 5-year gold rush that began in 2007, the peak unemployment rate in 2009, the first one thousand points down day in the history of the Dow Jones industrial average, and the sluggish recovery from the great recession.
In The Money Compass, Grimaldi teamed up with Professor G. Stevenson Smith to provide readers with a roadmap that not only helps them manage their money today but also teaches strategies that will help them profit from the next big economic collapse. "The system is rigged and the politicians and the one-percenters hold all of the cards," says Grimaldi. "Even though the economy is in bad shape, that doesn't mean you can't save responsibly, invest profitably, and retire comfortably."
Mark Anthony Grimaldi is a career money manager with a sterling record in financial forecasting. A graduate of Albany State University, Grimaldi earned the Certified Fund Specialist (CFS) designation before putting his gifts to work at top companies including Meyer Handleman Company in NY, Prime Financial Services and Marshall & Sterling Consultants. He helped create an exciting newsletter, The Money Compass, for which he is now Chief Portfolio Manager and Economist.
Mark believes in supporting his local community and is a major contributor to Helping Hand which was founded in 1996. Donations are given out on a quarterly basis to local charities that exemplify the founders' beliefs that charity begins at home. To date, Mark has donated nearly $131,000 to many worthwhile causes.
For more, please visit the website: www.GrimaldiEconomics.com
Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D.
c/o Jane Wesman Public Relations, Inc. (publicity)
9780990658009 $28.95 www.gritgauge.com
Grit: The New Science Of What It Takes To Persevere, Flourish, Succeed is a self-help guide grounded in the properties of GRIT - Growth (the ability to seek and incorporate new ideas/perspectives/learning), Resilience (the ability to respond to adversity), Instinct (listening to one's gut when pursuing goals), and Tenacity (perseverance and fortitude). Chapters walk the reader through how to hone their own propensity for GRIT, and how to apply GRIT to one's business career, personal relationships, and the pursuit of one's dreams. "...most people spend a meaningful chunk of their time pursuing less-than-meaningful endeavors, in less-than-optimal ways. How many people do you see or know who have clearly hardwired themselves to obsessively check and respond to texts and emails, regardless of whatever more important events may be sitting around them? ...our email compulsion is the efficience equivalent of rushing to the store every time you run low on a single item. The point being, there is a better, smarter way to go at it and to get stuff done." A life-changing self-improvement guide, Grit is a valuable read from cover to cover.
Neal Thornberry, Ph.D.
Evolve Publishing, Inc.
1010 Hedstrom Drive, Ashland, OH 44805
c/o News & Experts (publicity)
9780989322294 $19.95 www.evolvepublishing.com
Innovation Judo: Disarming Roadblocks and Blockheads on the Path to Creativity is a guide to developing leadership skills that promote innovative ideas within a business, military, nonprofit, or other organization. Challenging the status quo is often a difficult process, so the principles of judo (a martial art that focuses upon using an opponent's own strength against him) are adapted and applied to getting a set-in-its-ways organization to try something new, the better to earn world-class recognition. "Generally corporate values are created at the top of the organization, and as such they have both implied and real power... Know your company's values and make sure that you tie them to your initiatives. It is much harder to kill an initiative that is obviously in line with a core value, and even if others do not live by the values, very few in management want to admit this, so that will give you leverage." Innovation Judo is an excellent resource filled with tips, tricks, and techniques for navigating different bureaucratic or networking mazes, and is highly recommended especially for corporate professionals seeking to hone their leadership and influence skills.
Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten
Kevin Wayne Williams
Mott Haven Books
9780990853305 $13.99 pbk / $2.99 ebook
Also available as an ebook, Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten is a dark horror novel, recommended for adult (or possibly older teen) readers due to savage violence. When a zombie apocalypse descended upon nine-year-old Letitia Johnson, she tried to hide from it, along with her little sister and her classmates, locking themselves in a school bathroom. They hid for five days while their teachers and classmates were killed, and the Bronx was evacuated. But they couldn't hide forever, and with no one left to help and no place left to hide, what can twelve kindergarten students armed with little more than garden stakes do to survive? A daring but cruel novel featuring young black and Hispanic protagonists, Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten is knife-edge suspenseful, terrifyingly vicious, and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat to the very end.
The Dragon Ring
C. Craig Coleman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
97815005592205 $13.95 www.amazon.com
Also available as a Kindle ebook, The Dragon Ring is the first book of an epic fantasy saga set during the twilight of primal forces and the rise of mankind. Humanity seeks to survive and earn its rightful place among fantastic creatures ranging from wizards and witches to elves, dwarves, trolls, ogres, orcs, and powerful dragons. A sweeping saga of good versus evil, The Dragon Ring begins amid the political intrigue of a kingdom on the Powterosian continent. The new queen has recently claimed the throne at the behest of the nobility that forced her corrupt brother to abdicate. But the ruthless former queen turns to witchcraft to crush her sister-in-law and the royal family. Young Prince Saxthor, the second son and "extra" heir to the throne, is caught in the crossfire of ruthless machinations, dark magic, and even the savage predations of dragons magically compelled to serve as weapons of war. A world-building saga of sweeping action and heroism, The Dragon Ring is highly recommended especially for fans of the genre.
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th St., Ste H
Indianapolis, IN 46268
9781457525315 $18.95 www.dogearpublishing.net
The debut novel of author K. Griffiths, Myrrh is a dark fantastic saga about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - with a twist. The Apocalypse is an ongoing groundswell, begun in 90 A.D. as penned by St. John, currently extending past (infinite?) parallel realities to portend doom for humankind in all of them. But over the centuries, the Four Horsemen have developed personalities and identities - Willie (War), Frank (Famine), Petey (Pestilence) and Dave (Death). They've gained the ability to think for themselves, and to question whether they should blindly follow a Biblical plan... especially if that plan calls for their own unceremonious disposal, once their grisly work is complete! Can four humanized incarnations of abstract genocidal forces manage to outwit Heaven, Hell, and the Antichrist? A deft parable of philosophy, Scripture, and expansive imagination, Myrrh keeps the reader guessing to the end. Highly recommended!
Aurora Metro Books
9781906582531 $22.95 www.aurorametro.com
Even though The Evolutionist: The Strange Tale of Alfred Russel Wallace is a historical novel, it's heavily grounded in the life story of 19th century biologist and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace received equal credit with Charles Darwin for discovering the modern theory of evolution of the species; yet Wallace never attained Darwin's level of fame, perhaps because Wallace's radical ideas (including his belief in spiritualism) ran contrary to those of the scientific establishment. The Evolutionist brings to life a saga of passion for research, and the sharp divides of money, class, and discrimination. A strongly impressionistic portrait of an undeservedly little-known scientist, The Evolutionist is a raptly compelling read.
12 Amazing Franchise Opportunities for 2015
Compiled by John P. Hayes
16301 Quorum Dr., Suite 150-A
Addison, TX 75001
9780989767040 $14.97 www.BizComPress.com
What makes a successful franchise? University professor Dr. John P. Hayes, author of the popular blog HowToBuyAFranchise.com, shares his wisdom with readers about what makes a franchise financially successful. Also covered are how to determine whether one's business is a good fit for the franchise model, and how to raise money to buy a franchise. The spotlight is placed upon twelve current, solidly successful franchises that offer eye-opening investment opportunities, including Mr. Appliance, United Franchise Group, PostNet, and Wingstop. Occasional black-and-white photography illustrates this serious-minded yet reader-friendly guide. An excellent cover-to-cover browse for anyone interested in the risks and rewards of franchising. "Used properly, the 401k Rollover is an aggressive way to capitalize your business. The challenge, however, is that by using it you give up the security of a retirement fund... On the other hand, people who start businesses, and plan to operate them, aren't usually looking for comfort."
c/o Word Slinger Publicity
9781500234294 $11.99 www.limitlesspublishing.com
Legally Tied is a sensual, erotic novella intended for an adult audience. The story follows interior designer Lyndsay, who discovers the pleasures of sex parties and erotic lingerie shops. After resisting her intense desire for prosecuting attorney Nick, she succumbs to an intense, tempestuous relationship. Can their love withstand the grief-stricken aftermath of a devastating, senseless murder? Suspenseful, passionate, and sexy, Legally Tied is the epitome of "guilty pleasure"!
9781939288837, $23.10, 252pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Though Staci was bright and beautiful, her life was a nightmare. Growing up in foster care, experimenting with drugs, gangs and guns, falling into twisted relationships with men, she was constantly on the run from predators and peril. When a devastating accident paves the way to escape her tortured past, she jumps at the chance to start fresh, live the good life she'd only seen in movies and on TV. Driven and savvy, she creates a new character, studies hard and practices for the part, the role of lifetime, the role that she hopes will redeem her. When Staci's path intersects with Santos Rosa, RN and the dynamic team at Medical Center Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, Houston, she enters not only a world of hope and love, compassion and clinical excellence, but evil and danger. "The Imposter" weaves contemporary healthcare and workplace issues into a compelling story to create a novel of romantic suspense.
Critique: A compelling read showcasing deftly crafted and memorable characters embedded with a medical mystery format, "The Imposter" showcases the exceptionally storytelling talents of novelist Pamela Triolo. "The Imposter" is solid entertainment and highly recommended for community library Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted that "The Imposter" is also available in a paperback edition (9781939288813, $11.09) and a Kindle edition ($7.99).
Blowing The Roof Off The Twenty-First Century
Robert W. McChesney
Monthly Review Press
146 West 29th Street, Suite 6W, New York, NY 10001
9781583674789, $28.00, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the United States and much of the world there is a palpable depression about the prospect of overcoming the downward spiral created by the tyranny of wealth and privilege and establishing a truly democratic and sustainable society. It threatens to become self-fulfilling. "Blowing the Roof off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy" argues that the weight of the present is blinding people to the changing nature and the tremendous possibilities of the historical moment we inhabit. In "Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century", Robert W. McChesney Gurgsell Endowed Professor, Department of Communication, University of Illinois) uses a sophisticated political economic analysis to delineate the recent trajectory of capitalism and its ongoing degeneration. Professor McChesney reveals how notions of democratic media are becoming central to activists around the world seeking to establish post-capitalist democracies. "Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century" also takes a fresh look at recent progressive political campaigns in the United States. While conveying complex ideas in a lively and accessible manner, Professor McChesney demonstrates a very different and far superior world is not only necessary, but possible.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy" is especially recommended for both community and academic library Political Science collections. Also available in a Kindle edition ($14.16), "Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century" is especially appropriate for the non-specialist general reader concerned with the contemporary issues of social justice and the corruptive influences with respect to American government and governing in the 21st Century.
Race and Racism in International Relations
Alexander Anievas, et al.
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780415724357, $44.95, $135.00, 230pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: International Relations, as a discipline, does not grant race and racism explanatory agency in its conventional analyses, despite such issues being integral to the birth of the discipline. "Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line" seeks to remedy this oversight by acting as a catalyst for remembering, exposing and critically re-articulating the central importance of race and racism in International Relations. Focusing especially on the theoretical and political legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois's concept of the "colour line", the cutting edge contributions in this text provide an accessible entry point for both International Relations students and scholars into the literature and debates on race and racism by borrowing insights from disciplines such as history, anthropology and sociology where race and race theory figures more prominently; yet they also suggest that the field of IR is itself an intellectually and strategic field through which to further confront the global colour line.
Critique: Compiled and deftly co-edited by the team of Alexander Anievas (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Department of Politicvs and International Studies, University of Cambridge), Nivi Manchanda (PhD candidate, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge), and Robbie Shilliam (Reader, International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London), "Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line" is comprised of twelve major articles by knowledgeable contributors which are organized into three major sections: Conceptualizing the International Relations of Race and Racism; International Practices of Race and Racism; Reflections on the Global Line. Enhanced with the inclusion of a fifteen page Index, "Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line" is a collective work of seminal scholarship and a valued contribution to academic library International Relations reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that " "Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line" is also available in a paperback edition (9780415724357, $44.95) and a Kindle edition ($36.02).
Tapping Into Wealth
Margaret M. Lynch
Jeremy P. Tarcher
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780399164095, $25.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), also known as Tapping, has become a popular tool for realizing goals. For many of us, one of our main aspirations is to flourish in our careers and, by extension, in our finances. Yet limiting beliefs and fears keep people stuck in their current financial states. EFT uses the fingertips to tap on acupuncture points while emotionally tuning in to negative attitudes and past experiences, allowing people to transform their thoughts and feelings. In "Tapping Into Wealth: How Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Can Help You Clear the Path to Making More Money", author Margaret M. Lynch teaches people how to harness the power of Tapping to identify and clear the blocks to prosperity. "Tapping Into Wealth: How Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Can Help You Clear the Path to Making More Money" also features QR codes and URLs linking to video demonstrations of Tapping exercises.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented for the non-specialist general reader, "Tapping Into Wealth: How Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Can Help You Clear the Path to Making More Money" is practical, informative, and highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections alike. It should be noted that "Tapping Into Wealth: How Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Can Help You Clear the Path to Making More Money" is also available in a paperback edition (9780399168826, $15.95), a Kindle edition ($7.99), and in an Audiobook Download format ($16.95).
Willis M. Buhle
Inner Messiah, Divine Character
c/o Wipf & Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401
9781625648884, $30.00, 264pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Inner Messiah, Divine Character: Narrative Approaches to Be Beyond Best" encourages readers to deploy their imaginations in describing their lives as a confluence of narrative constructs to identify, analyze, and overcome obstacles and destructive patterns in both their personal and professional lives. "Inner Messiah, Divine Character" promotes a three-point strategy to empower and to improve readers' attitudes about their personal and professional struggles. Drawing on the scholarship of Ancient Jewish mysticism and its influence on Freudian and Jungian analysis, "Inner Messiah, Divine Character" helps readers discover the "Be" within their "Being" to create new opportunities in the present, motivates readers to perceive "Beyond" their limitations and ordinary expectations, and encourages readers to strive for the superlative in their endeavors to achieve their "Best".
Critique: An extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal reading lists and community library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections, "Inner Messiah, Divine Character" is deftly organized into three major sections: Our Life Stories as the Penultimate Narrative; Our Empowered and Improved Self as Optimal Narrator; and Our Inner Messiah as Quintessential Divine Character. Enhanced with the inclusion of a thirty-one page Bibliography, author and journalist Benjamin Yosef has created an informed and thought-provoking work that is accessible and commended to non-specialist general readers seeking to advance and promote the understanding and the quality of their personal lives. It should be noted that "Inner Messiah, Divine Character: Narrative Approaches to Be Beyond Best" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
River Of No Return
David Riley Bertsch
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451698039, $26.99, 400pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: High season is coming to an end, and fishing guide Jake Trent suddenly has some time on his hands. As the ex-lawyer ponders rekindling his romance with park ranger Noelle Kimpton, a surprise call from a long-lost love lights up his phone. It's been years since law school graduation, when Jake's last seen Divya Navaysam. Now a DC lobbyist, Divya wants Jake to come to Washington for a consulting job - immediately. Meanwhile, back in Jackson, Jake's best friend and occasional employee, JP, is dealing with his own romantic woes. After years of bad luck in love, JP has fallen for Esma. But after a perfect summer, JP's new girlfriend is now back in her native Mexico - and before long, she seems to have gone off the grid completely. When local police offer little help, a distraught JP turns to Jake. To find Esma, Jake must navigate a heated relationship with his ex-flame in Washington. Jake's renegade investigation leads him to a remote cabin in Idaho - and a series of discoveries that point to a conspiracy bigger than anything anyone could have imagined.
Critique: Written by a true master of the mystery/suspense genre, "River Of No Return" by David riley Bertsch is a solidly entertaining, page-turner of a read making it very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "River Of No Return" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.04); in a Audiobook Download format ($21.41); and as an MP3 CD ($25.15).
Xi Jingping: The Governance Of China
Foreign Languages Press
c/o Tuttle Publishing
364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
9787119090238, $39.99, 515pp, www.amazon.com
Xi Jinping (born 15 June 1953) is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the President of the People's Republic of China, and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. As Xi holds the top offices of the party, state, and military. As General Secretary, Xi is also an ex officio member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China's de facto top decision-making body. Son of communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping rose through the ranks politically in China's coastal provinces. He served as the Governor of Fujian between 1999 and 2002, then as Governor and Party Secretary of the neighboring Zhejiang between 2002 and 2007. Following the dismissal of Chen Liangyu, Xi was transferred to Shanghai as the Party Secretary for a brief period in 2007. Xi was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee and Central Secretariat in October 2007 and was groomed to become Hu Jintao's successor. He served as Vice-President of the People's Republic of China between 2008 and 2013. Xi is now the leader of the People's Republic's fifth generation of leadership. He has initiated a renewed campaign against corruption, further market economic reforms, governing with greater emphasis on the law and legal institutions, and a comprehensive national renewal under the neologism "Chinese Dream".
Critique: "Xi Jingping: The Governance Of China" is an exceptional autobiography of a man who is trying to reform China's ruling political party with respect to previously rampant corruption, deal with an enormous and growing environmental crisis of drought and air pollution; control the political ambitions of China's minority populations; strengthen China's economic development; and so much more. This English language edition of "Xi Jingping: The Governance Of China" is an important and highly recommended addition to community and academic library collections, and is commended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader seeking to become better acquainted with the current leader of the Chinese communist party. It should be noted that "Xi Jingping: The Governance Of China" is also available in a paperback edition (9787119090573, $23.99) and a Kindle edition ($7.92).
Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt
Regnery Publishing, Inc.
One Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9781621572107, $27.99, 300pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Stroll through our country's presidential moments from George Washington to Barach Obama and discover the role that alcohol played in all of them with Mark Will-Weber's "Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking". As America transformed from fledgling nation to world power, one element remained constant: alcohol. The eighteenth century saw the Father of His Country distilling whiskey in his backyard. The nineteenth century witnessed the lavish expenses on wine by the Sage of Monticello, Honest Abe's inclination toward temperance, and the slurred speech of the first president to be impeached. Fast forward to the twentieth century and acquaint yourself with Woodrow Wilson's namesake whisky, FDR's affinity for rum swizzles, and Ike's bathtub gin. What concoctions can be found in the White House today? Visit the first lady's beehives to find out: Which Founding Fathers had distilleries in their backyards; The teetotalers versus the car-totalers; Whose expensive tastes in vintages led to bankruptcy; Which commanders in chief preferred whiskey to whisky; The 4 C's: Cointreau, claret, Campari, and cocktails; The first ladies who heralded the "hair of the dog" and those who vehemently opposed it; The preferred stemware: snifter or stein?; Which presidents and staff members abstained, imbibed, or overindulged during Prohibition; Recipes through the ages: favorites including the Bermuda Rum Swizzle, Missouri Mule, and Obama's White House Honey Ale; and so much more!
Critique: Just when you thought every possible subject affecting the presidency of the United States has been covered, along comes professional journalist and author Mark Will-Weber to point out that no one had ever provided an historical (and detailed!) survey of presidential drinking habits and the influence it has had for those who have occupied the White House. Informed, informative, and a truly fun read, "Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking" is enthusiastically recommended for both community and academic American History collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.49).
The Argentine Triangle
87 Walker Street, Suite B1, New York, NY 10013
9781590791417, $16.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After a fall from grace and drastic cosmetic surgery in Switzerland, former CIA director Craig Page is enjoying a new, exhilarating life racing cars across Europe. But when new dangers threaten America and an old friend goes missing during a covert mission in Argentina, will Craig be ready to step up to the plate? Undercover in the glamorous world of Buenos Aires' wealthy elite, Page finds himself on the brink of a terrible discovery. General Estrada and Colonel Schiller have plans for Argentina, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. A world of brutality hidden in the classified secrets of Argentina's Dirty War comes to light, painting an image of the cataclysmic future awaiting Estrada's South America. To expose Estrada and put an end to his plot, Page is forced to implement every instinct, skill, and tool in his arsenal. But when it comes time to close in for the kill, Page meets with unexpected complications-love, lust, and a lethal game of cat and mouse.
Critique: "The Argentine Triangle" is a compelling thriller of a read from beginning to end. Replete with cliff hanger plot twists and gripping unexpected turns and surprises, "The Argentine Triangle" clearly documents author Allan Topol as a master storyteller with an impressive ability to insert memorable characters into a tightly woven and complex tale that holds the reader's rapt attention and just won't let go! Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Argentine Triangle" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
New Slow City
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608682393, $15.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Burned-out after years of doing development work around the world, William Powers spent a season in a 12-foot-by-12-foot cabin off the grid in North Carolina, as recounted in his award-winning memoir "Twelve by Twelve". Could he live a similarly minimalist life in the heart of New York City? To find out, Powers and his wife jettisoned 80 percent of their stuff, left their 2,000-square-foot Queens townhouse, and moved into a 350-square-foot "micro-apartment" in Greenwich Village. Downshifting to a two-day workweek, Powers explores the viability of Slow Food and Slow Money, technology fasts and urban sanctuaries. Discovering a colorful cast of New Yorkers attempting to resist the culture of Total Work, Powers offers an inspiring exploration for anyone trying to make urban life more people- and planet-friendly.
Critique: An extraordinary story deftly told from first page to last, "New Slow City: Living Simply in the World's Fastest City" is an inherently fascinating and informative read. Exceptionally well written and presented, "New Slow City" is especially recommended to the attention of anyone who has ever felt the urge to simplify their life by engaging in a 'less is more' personal style. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, it should be noted that "New Slow City: Living Simply in the World's Fastest City" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Michael J. Carson
The Third Target
Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414336275, $26.99, www.tyndale.com
Joel Rosenberg begins a new and exciting suspense series, The Third Target scheduled for early release January 6 due to rapid moving events the story reflects. Multiple themes of prophecy, biological and chemical warfare, the rise of ISIS and radical jihadists offers the author's fictionalized view of how real the threat is. "The Third Target" is an intriguing and some might even say a prophetical read that could be torn from today's headlines.
Set in the Middle East, the story centers around New York Times foreign correspondent J. B. Collins, rumors of captured WMD's, a peace treaty, a "Jordanian-born terrorist," a cache of chemical weapons and a beautiful and mysterious Israeli agent named Yael.
Collins knew little about the terrorist except his name - Jamal Ramzy, which was only spoken in whispers and that he lived off the grid. So far as Collins knew he had never been "photographed or interviewed by a Western reporter" before.
Yet, here he was, in international airspace approaching Lebanon where he would slip across the border into Syria for an unprecedented exclusive interview "without limits or preconditions" with the "world's most feared jihadi commander." The director of Central Intelligence, chief of Jordanian Intelligence, even the Mossad as well as his own editor warned against the interview. He knew they had a compelling argument - Jamal Ramzy was a killer.
Thus begins an adrenaline-laced tale of international intrigue, religious fanaticism and End-Time prophecies impossible to put down. The well-developed cast of likeable characters, the subtle sprinkles of romance, family entanglements and edge-of-your-seat suspense that never lets up demand "The Third Target" be read cover-to-cover.
Rosenberg's well-earned reputation for compelling, action-packed prophetical fiction thrillers like The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative and Damascus Countdown continues. Does The Third Target foreshadow future events? Only time will tell. In the meantime it's an award winning read.
Morning by Morning: A Quiet Time Guide for Beginners
Josie Quimba Sinclair
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500700928, $5.99, www.createspace.com
Josie Quimba Sinclair, nurse and former staff member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in her native Philippines penned Morning by Morning as a "quiet time guide" for those new to the faith. Although originally intended for international students in the "non-profit Christian organization" she now serves with alongside her husband in the United States, the simple guide is a useful tool for all new believers.
She writes that when a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior they become a "child of God and are spiritually born again." Yet, that's only the first step toward spiritual growth that results in a sweet and fulfilling, personal relationship with Jesus. Quiet times encourage such closeness to the Lord, something many new to the faith are unsure of how to implement.
Josie's easy-to-understand explanations answer the basic questions of "what, when, how long and where" to begin, which is why "Morning by Morning" is an excellent choice for new believers. She begins with what a "quiet time" is, why it's important, when and where it should take place, how long such times usually are, how to prepare and items to have on hand, such as notebook, index cards and pen.
She uses the acronym "Pray'r to help readers associate the words with a format or method" similar to acronyms she used as study aids in nursing school "to remember medical terms."
Prepare your heart with a simple prayer for help in understanding.
Read God's Word.
Ask questions as "you interact with the passage."
Your plan to practice what's learned.
Remain in prayer and focus on God.
She also uses the acronym "" for a prayer format.
Describe God's attributes
Ask forgiveness for specific sins
Thank God for food, clothes and other blessings.
Express your needs and those of others.
The guide features four quiet time methods with the acronym's of "ABC, FLY, PURE and PICTURES." Week one's method features "new life in Christ." Week two "growing in Christ." Week three "walking with Jesus" and week four "the journey ahead." Josie recommends using each method to determine your favorite by week five when her detailed instructions end.
The book ends with a "prayer organizer," suggested prayer list and space to record prayer requests and answers. Appendixes offer examples of Josie's themed study methods, suggestions for how to find a church, how to select a Bible and how to contact her.
"Morning by Morning's" simple guidance is practical, easy-to-understand and implement which makes it an excellent choice for a new believer or for those who feel spiritually adrift and want to draw close to God.
Hand in Hand: The Beauty of God's Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601426260, $14.99, http://waterbrookmultnomah.com
Randy Alcorn, bestselling author and leading Christian apologist tackles the question of God's sovereignty and man's free will" in his new release, "hand in Hand." The spelling of the title with a lower case "h" and an upper case "H" presents a word picture of the mysterious paradox. While the topic is divisive and can causes arguments, Alcorn believes that alone is a "compelling reason" for studying the issue, "to better understand what "cannot be "fully" understood with finite minds.
The first chapter focuses on six excellent reasons for a study that asks, "If God is sovereign, how can I be free to choose? But if God is not sovereign, how can he be God?" It's a mystery and seeming contradiction Alcorn debates in "light of all Scripture." He also uses charts, illustrations, allegories and quotations of well-known Christian authors to offer a fair and balanced view of common theological positions to explore the thorny issue.
Each of eleven chapters builds on the previous chapter and he begins with the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism in chapter two. He acts as a "theological referee" to explore their principles in easy-to-understand language.
He explains Armenians believe "human free will is compatible with God's sovereignty," a position Alcorn favored for much of his life. While "Calvinists affirm people are free to choose according to their natures" yet, he writes, God must first "empower him" because man is incapable of "choosing to follow God" without God's intervention due to his sin nature.
Late in the book Alcorn discloses what his current position is in "light of all Scripture" and he encourages readers to do the same. He emphasizes, "God's choices come first, and ours second."
and warns against taking Bible verses out of context. He encourages readers to measure what they read by Scripture and "reflect on God's Word" to determine their own position.
By books end readers will understand a bit more about God's mysterious sovereignty and why Alcorn considers "free will" to be "meaningful choice." However, Alcorn writes, regardless of position "all who love Jesus, and are saved by his sovereign grace alone can walk 'hand in Hand with God." Chapters conclude with extensive end notes in addition to a small-group discussion guide.
The Grand Paradox
P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
9780849964671, $22.99, www.thomasnelson.com
Ken Wytsma, author, pastor and founder of The Justice Conference explores "the art of living by faith" in "The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith" releasing Tuesday, January 27. Faith isn't an easy journey, writes Wytsma because "life is messy and God is mysterious." In "The Grand Paradox" he shares why he believes real faith is more characterized by confusion than clarity which leads many to feeling "lost and distant from God."
Yet Wytsma believes contradiction and paradox are necessary ingredients in man's pursuit of God. He calls the condition an "awkward reality" and describes life as chaotic, filled with doubt, pain and uncertainty, often marked by contradictions that create "catch-22" situations. A term popularized by Joseph Heller's 1995 fictionalized account of a "hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule" wrapped in a paradox titled Catch-22 that he uses as an example. Where an unreasonable choice deemed a man's sanity or insanity.
He describes Abrahams journey to Mount Mariah prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac as an "ideal example of unreasonable faith." Abraham didn't know what God's plan was. He only knew to trust God. From the world's point of view Abraham faced an illogical contradiction to sacrifice his son, God's promised gift to him. Scripture says Abraham acted in faithful obedience trusting in "God's goodness."
Wytsma points out that Abrahams story reveals trust and obedience are necessary ingredients of faith, especially when we don't know the rest of the story because that kind of faith also requires surrender of our will to God's, which makes surrender another necessary component of faith. He writes, it's only when we surrender our wills to God that "we can truly find God."
In "The Grand Paradox," Wytsma explores the paradoxes of Christianity that defy logic, yet make sense in the walk of a committed Christian. Such as when Christians are told to "die is to live," "serve to gain," "give to receive," and "lose your life to find it." He writes, "accepting this tension-filled truth, no matter the circumstances, is the pathway to peace."
Eugene Cho, lead pastor of Seattle's Quest Church, a multi-cultural and multi-generational church writes in the Foreword, "God is with us through all circumstances, especially in our doubts, pain and mess." That is the true test of faith.
I don't believe man's finite mind can understand the God of the infinite. If we could we would be like God. Instead, God designed us to be in relationship with Him not to compete with Him
and that begins with trust. In "The Grand Paradox" Wytsma challenges readers to define what their faith is and then describes how to discern God's voice and learn what God is calling them to do. He uses Scripture, stories and personal examples to encourage readers to live by faith and not by sight. Because what can be seen doesn't require faith.
"The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith" is biblically sound, thought-provoking and teaches when we have doubt and struggle with faith those times may "actually be the most important and meaningful seasons of life."
41: A Portrait Of My Father
George W. Bush
Crown Publishing Group
c/o Random House Publishing Group
9780553447781, $25.00, www.amazon.com
"41: A Portrait Of My Father" is unique because it is one former president writing about another one who is also his father. The Adams father and son are the only other time in the country's history that a father and son have both served as president, but there is no book by John Quincy Adams about his dad. George Herbert Walker Bush is revealed to be a very caring, principled, honorable person who represents the best image of a former public official. On another level the author details what he has learned from his dad about life and politics... Also revealed are many unknown things about Barbara Bush that add to the enjoyment of this expose of George W. Bush's parents You do not have to be political to like "41: Portrait Of My Father."
A Year In The Life Of Downton Abbey
Written by Jessica Fellowes
Foreword by Executive Producer Julian Fellowes
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250065384, $29.99, www.amazon.com
Downton Abbey, the mega hit TV show worldwide, continues to thrill audiences all over the world. Now in its 5th season with no end in sight, fans can learn more about the show in the newest coffee table book "A Year In The Life of Downton Abbey." The author delves into the world of Downton and tells fans little known facts about the show. Some of the things are month by month activity at Downton, a cast list for season 5, dialogue of some of the characters revealed, and lots more. The book is easy to read and filled with so many wonderful pictures that add to the whole Downton mystique. No fan of the series should miss "A Year Of The Life of Downton Abbey."
Origins of Golf
514 Winter Terrace, Winter Haven, Fl 33881
9781493560745, $15.00, www.amazon.com
"Origins of Golf" is a total departure from what Marlowe is most well known. Usually Marlowe's books have been about strange creatures like Big Foot. Now he traces the beginnings of golf and shows that every major culture has had some form of the modern game. He shows how Polo and other sports have been an influence to the popular sport. Marlowe's writing is easy to follow and he poses many different scenarios for anyone to understand. "Origins of Golf" is a fun excursion into the many facets of this hobby so many like to play. No fan of this pastime should miss "Origins of Golf."
You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, And The Perfect Marriage of Sports And Television
Al Michaels with L Hon Wertheim
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
9780062314963, $28.99, www.amazon.com
One of America's favorite sportscasters now tells his life story as well as his opinion on many different aspects of the world of sports in his book "You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, And The Perfect Marriage of Sports And Television". Beginning with his life as a kid where he knew then he wanted to be a broadcaster to his current stint on Sunday Night Football on NBC Michaels writes as if he is talking to his audience that makes the book so much fun to read. He even talks about his extra role in the original "Hawaii Five O" when Jack Lord totally ignored him before and after the scene they were in together.
Mr. Monk And The New Lieutenant
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978045147058, $23.95, www.amazon.com
Sadly, "Mr. Monk And The New Lieutenant" is the last one by Hy Conrad. Like Lee Goldberg who began the novels of Adrian Monk, Conrad is too busy with other writing projects to continue. There is a murder and Monk makes it his business to solve the case while also requesting Natalie to ask Randy Disher to come and help him solve this case that has something to do with one Disher was a part of several years ago. Conrad ends the story on a high note leaving it open for another author to continue the adventures of Adrian Monk. The series is funnier than ever as Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective, tackles all kind of problems. "Mr. Monk And The New Lieutenant:" is another rousing laugh out loud adventure of Adrian Monk that fans of the show should not miss.
Woman With A Gun
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
9780062266521, $26.99, www.amazon.com
"Woman With A Gun" is based on a picture the author saw and purchased from the photographer that got him thinking about why the woman had the particular gun in her hand. The result is the story that begins with Stacey Kim, who views the picture in an art museum in New York. She learns that there is an unsolved murder that has something to do with why the photo was taken. Stacey decides to research the case for a possible novel. The story moves back and forth between the present and 10 years ago when the murder originally happened. Though it shifts back and forth it is easy to follow and Margolin keeps the reader guessing who the murderer might be until the very end. "Woman With A Gun" is a strange tale of murder.
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250027702, $27.99, www.amazon.com
Judy Carrier an attorney of the firm Rosato & Associates who looks into the death of Iris the housekeeper and finds there is more than what seemed a heart attack. She also learns things about her own family that are not what she had always been led to believe. "Betrayed" is a fast paced page turner that will please Scottoline readers.
House of Robots
James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316405911, $13.99 www.amazon.com
Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez has a problem. He is being made fun of by other kids because he comes to school with a robot his mother created for him. She is an inventor who had good intentions for the robot to be like a brother to Sammy but the other children at school have a very different view that makes it difficult for Sammy to attend. "House of Robots" is a multi level YA novel that anyone can read and enjoy.
Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile
James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316370868, $14.99 www.amazon.com
"Treasure Hunters: Danger Down The Nile" is the second novel of the Kid family who lost their parents at sea and have to finish the work they started. There are many bizarre characters the members encounter as they learn more about the work their parents were doing and learn what happened to them. "Treasure Hunters: Danger Down The Nile" is a page turner of suspense guaranteed to thrill readers of all age.
Stop Means Stop
Illustrated by Lorrie J. Smith
Cricket Cottage Publishing
409 Hoffner Aveune # 127, Orlando, Florida 32812
9781489589415, $9.95, www.amazon.com
"Stop Means Stop" can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike in this charming children's story. Charlie is a healthy little boy but he has a major problem. He just goes about whatever he wants to do and never listens to anyone on anything. "Stop Means Stop" is a fun kid's book that shows why it is wrong to be like Charlie. The lessons the author presents for kids are for them to learn to be more responsible people. Adults who run stop signs or slide through the intersection should read "Stop Means Stop" and learn how to drive better because they need to learn the meaning of the word STOP.
All Day and a Night
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062208385, Hardcover, 350 pp., $26.99
Ellie Hatcher, a detective with the NYPD, and her partner, Jeffrey James ("J.J.") Rogan, working homicide in the 13th Precinct, return in the fifth entry of this wonderful series by Alafair Burke. The pair have conflicted reactions when Ellie's boyfriend, ADA Max Donovan, assigns them, on behalf of the Conviction Integrity Unit, as a "fresh look" team to look into the 18-year-old murder conviction of Anthony Amaro, a man who had been put away as a serial killer and is serving a life sentence without chance of parole (in prison slang, "all day and a night," "all day" simply being a life sentence). The problem arises when a Park Slope psychotherapist is found murdered in a manner identical to that of the women Amaro had been accused of killing [those having apparently all been working prostitutes], and the police start receiving anonymous tips. Things get more complex when there is a question about the possibly coerced confession made by Amaro to one of the murders, the fallout of that being a review of all 'confessions' elicited by that same cop, again reminiscent of something along similar lines in New York in recent years.
The rather obscure DA unit handles cases of "wrongful conviction," of which there have been many successful ones over recent years. The attorney who represents Amaro here is Linda Moreland, a celebrity trial lawyer with 8 exoneration wins under her belt, who in turn contacts Carrie Blank, a former law student of Moreland and now an attorney with a prestigious law firm who is the step-sister of one of the victims, killed many years ago in Utica, NY. Carrie can't refuse, hoping she can gain some insight into her step-sister's murder. The novel's point-of-view alternates accordingly, with the parallel investigations.
The writing completely captures the toxic atmosphere currently plaguing the US and, especially, New York City, with regard to community vis-a-vis police relations, and the stop-and-frisk policy just recently changed by New York's current mayor. The case revolves around both venues, the upstate New York area where most of the murders occurred and where the most recent victim once worked, as well as the New York area, now home to Ellie [originally from Wichita, Kansas], Rogan, Max and the author as well. The novel moves ingeniously and quickly to a terrific conclusion, with several unexpected twists and turns along the way. The author gets everything right, with many 'ripped from the headlines' story lines, and the book is highly recommended.
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385348478, Paperback, 416 pp., $15.00
"The Accident" is, nominally, about a manuscript which bears that title, the author shown as "Anonymous." It is a memoir (perhaps), an expose or unauthorized biography (possibly), of an international media mogul (think Rupert Murdoch), with some little-known (or until now unknown) and potentially ruinous events in his past, most shockingly the one which gives the book its title, the person who wrote it identified only as "the author." But more importantly, the novel, written with a sly humor, provides an inside look at the publishing industry, in ever greater danger of extinction, that is as fascinating (in a schadenfreude kind of way) as that ostensible main story line. We are told the "the publishing business is a business, and books are published for an audience to buy from bookstores, who buy units from distributors who order cartons from publishers who acquire titles from literary agencies who sign up careers from authors, money changing hands at every transaction."
The book opens with the surveillance of a woman, as yet unnamed, by a man watching a live video feed as she lies in bed, reading, typical of the espionage, literal and figurative, found here.
The manuscript, hand-delivered to the office of Isabel Reed, a powerful literary agent in New York, is full of shocking revelations implicating, e.g., various American presidents and CIA directors, and is, almost literally, dynamite, putting those few individuals who are privy to its contents in mortal danger. On the other hand, each of those individuals, initially at least, see in it their salvation. Written from their various points of view, the novel takes the reader from New York to Zurich, Copenhagen and Los Angeles, all of it taking place in a single day, and exposes the staggering machinations which routinely abound in the publishing industry. The reader is treated to brief excerpts from the manuscript, interspersed periodically, as it is read by the players in that select group.
With wonderfully well-drawn characters, this is a terrific read, and highly recommended.
Elizabeth is Missing
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062309662, Hardcover, 301 pp., $26.99
"Elizabeth is missing" is the sole notation made on most of the innumerable notes that Maud Horsham constantly makes and puts in any available pocket, as a hoped-for aid to her increasingly failing memory. Maud is in an advancing state of dementia, and more often than not cannot remember where she is, or with whom, even when the latter is her daughter, or her granddaughter (sometimes mistaking the latter for the former). But she knows that her best friend - - indeed, just about her only remaining friend, as she remembers "The others are in homes or in graves" - - appears to be missing. She takes any path she can conjure up to try to solve the mystery, resorting to putting an ad in the local newspaper for any information anyone may have as to her whereabouts.
And her friend Elizabeth is not the only 'disappeared' person Maud is trying to track down. Even 70 years later (which doesn't matter so much when one has no idea of time frames), Maud is still trying to find her sister, Sukey, missing since the time after the London blitz, when Maud was 15 years old and England was still trying to recover from the war, enduring rationed food and bombed-out homes. The narrative, such as it is, jumps back and forth in time, from looking for her sister to searching for her friend, sometimes for both at seemingly the same time. It is often difficult just to follow where Maud is, both for Maud herself as well as for the reader.
This book is unlike any I have ever read. Maud is the first-person narrator, and that narrative is as disjointed as Maud's mind, conveying, quite convincingly, that state of being. I must admit to a feeling of 'there but for the grace of G-d go . . .' well, I, or indeed any of us. The novel is one that literally haunted me well after I had finished reading it, and I suspect it may do that for many readers.
The Ways of Evil Men
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954772, Paperback, 338 pp., $14.95
I must begin by saying that I opened up this book with very mixed emotions. Not because I didn't expect to like the writing - far from it - I have loved each of the books by Mr. Gage, and this was probably the best of them all; but because I knew it would the last by this wonderful writer, who passed away almost exactly a year ago, in July of 2013. I have loved each of his books, and, beyond that, considered him a friend. We had communicated often, about his books and about Brazil, the setting for each of the books in this terrific series, of which this is the seventh entry. I should add that he (and his wife and daughter!) always made sure I didn't run out of Brazilian wish ribbons, to which he alluded in his books, and I have not been without one on my wrist for years.
Federal Police Chief Inspector Mario Silva is called in to investigate two deaths which occur in quick succession. As violent and brutal as these deaths were, what preceded them was infinitely worse: The deaths of thirty-nine of the lone surviving 41 members of the Awana tribe in the Brazilian state of Para, "Brazil's modern-day equivalent of the old American Wild West." One character says "only white men would be evil enough to poison an entire people." It becomes clear that what is involved is nothing short of genocide, and comparably lesser crimes with which Mr. Gage's readers have become familiar, such as corruption, greed and intolerance, are present as well. As Silva says, "Money buys justice in this part of the world." The worst of human failings is brought to stark life in these pages. By its end, the esteem those readers have always had for Silva, his competence and his character, is only heightened.
The book's title is taken from the Bible: "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men." The evil is made abundantly clear in this terrific book, which is highly recommended. I can only urge that readers who appreciate strongly drawn characters and a well-plotted tale not miss this wonderful, final addition to a much-loved series from a writer who will be sorely missed.
The Corpse Bridge
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10007
9780062382405, Paperback, 400 pp., $11.99/7.66 BPS
e-book, ISBN 9780062382429, $2.99 US & CA
(UK: Sphere, c/o Little Brown UK, 100 Victoria Enbamkment, London #C4Y 0DY, littlebrown.co.uk) Hardcover, 392 pp., 18.99 BPS, ISBN: 9780751552730)
The newest novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series opens on Halloween in Edendale, in the Peak District of England. DS Ben Cooper, of the Derbyshire E Division CID, in his 30's, is going through a particularly bad time in his life, after his fiancee, Li z Petty, a civilian Scenes of Crime officer, had been killed when the premises they were investigating burned to the ground, costing Liz her life, and "snatched [Ben's] entire future away." On this night, he is called to the scene where a woman's corpse has been found, ironically at a site colloquially known as The Corpse Bridge, crossing over the River Dove. Over many generations several "coffin roads" converged at that bridge before ending at their graveyards. Making the case more complex is the presence at the scene of an effigy, a noose, and a witch ball filled with curses.
The usual group of cops readers have grown to know and love are present: DCs Luke Irvine, Becky Hurst, Carol Villiers and Gavin Murfin (after 30 years now nearing the end of his time before retirement). Ben finds himself reunited with DS Diane Fry, who had transferred to the Major Crime Unit of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, and is about to move into an apartment on the outskirts of Nottingham. She had been back at Derbyshire's E Division to cover for Ben when he was out on sick leave after Liz' death, and is now called back there again to work the present case with Divisional CID. Her relationship with Ben reverts to its normal enmity-filled competitiveness, especially at a time when Ben is considering applying for a coming vacancy at inspector level or, in the alternative, getting out completely.
The writing is less action-filled than it is wonderfully descriptive, both of local atmosphere and geography, and including as it does a lot of fascinating historical lore. The author conjures up all the details of the countryside and its geography so that even one from "across the pond" can clearly picture them. He describes the hill country as "prehistoric anomalies . . . [which] belonged to a distant past. They shouldn't exist here, in the twenty-first century. These strange hills were a fragment of some parallel universe, dropped into Derbyshire by a momentary connection between their two worlds. He was standing in reality, but looking at legend . . . one of those odd places the Peak District was full of . . . In this area you never knew what sort of place you were arriving in or what might lie behind its facade."
As you can see, the writing is beautiful, and the novel is recommended.
Blue Rider Press
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399168208, Hardcover, 334 pp., $26.95/31.00 CA$
This is the third entry in the series featuring Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy, and is every bit as terrific as the first two. McAvoy is with the Yorkshire Serious and Organized Crime Unit, in the small English city of Hull, still working on a series of crimes committed by a vicious group seeking to take over the drug trade previously run by Vietnamese, something they had not been able to do in "Original Skin," the predecessor novel. England has been going through a prolonged and oppressive hot spell, although the sky holds promise of a saturating rain storm at any moment.
The Scottish McAvoy, described as "a humble, shy giant of a man" at 6' 5", passionately in love with his much younger Romany wife, his young son and baby daughter and preparing to move into their new home, has been directed to attend sessions with a police-approved counselor because of perceived emotional problems. In a separate plot line, McAvoy is assigned the investigation into two killings which take place within 24 hours. McAvoy is second-guessing himself, and his career choice: "He has done this too many times. Sat in too many rooms with too much grief; felt too many eyes upon him as he made his promises to the dead . . . insists that he does his job as a police officer before he allows himself to become a human being." Despite being written mostly with a light touch, the murders are quite sadistic, and it is speculated that a serial, probably deranged, killer is on the loose. The only connection between the victims seems to relate to events almost 15 years in the past, an even more horrific series of crimes perpetrated by a man who was incarcerated but sentenced to treatment in a psychiatric facility, and is now mostly incapacitated by a stroke.
The supporting cast of characters/police colleagues is very well-drawn, as usual: D.S. Trish Pharoah (with "four kids and a crippled husband" and a drinking problem, DIs Helen Tremberg and Shaz Archer et al, and McAvoy's wife, Roisin. The novel is wonderfully well written, and gradually the suspense mounts until, with less than a hundred pages to go, I became actually fearful of reading further, not wanting to find out what is about to happen next, as I nonetheless started turning pages more and more quickly. The only certain thing about the plot is that one must expect the unexpected. -- Highly recommended.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451414120, Paperback, 480 pp., $9.99
As Harlan Coben's newest blockbuster novel opens, Kat Donovan's best friend, Stacy, who runs a p.i. agency, tells Kat that she's bought her a one-year subscription to an online dating service. It's been eighteen years sine Kat's then-fiance broke up with her, and she's never allowed herself to really get involved with anyone else. Kat, 40 years old and the third generation in her family to be a cop with the NYPD, soon finds herself checking out the site, and is stunned to discover there the face and profile of her long-lost almost-husband. Needless to say, she's never gotten over him, and responds to his on-line invitation.
The break-up of her engagement is not the only thing Kat is grieving over and about which she has never found 'closure,' the other being her detective father's murder many years before. The man who is serving a life sentence for the killing is now critically ill in the hospital, and Kat's last chance to identify the man who paid for the killing, a big-time crime boss, so that the cops can finally put him away, is slipping away.
Back at the precinct house, Kat is approached by Brandon Phelps, a young man who specifically seeks her out, asking for help in finding his mother, who apparently has vanished, with no contact in several days, something that has never happened before, and Kat agrees to investigate.
The author introduces, in the second chapter, another character, Gerard Remington by name, but any link to Kat and her personal and professional problems does not become known until about one-third of the way into the book. And the real significance of Remington is not more fully disclosed until well after that. The connection among all these threads is one that will have readers turning pages ever more quickly, even more so as the novel races to its conclusion. As with every Harlan Coben novel, it is cleverly plotted, with wonderfully well-drawn characters, including "Aqua," Kat's yoga teacher, a "cross-dressing schizophrenic gay man." The surprises don't stop, and the pulse-pounding denouement is terrific. (And I loved the author's tip-of-the-hat to fellow mystery writer Parnell Hall.)
Malniveau Prison: The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy Book 1
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
144 Southwark St., London, England, SE1 OUP
9781781167939, Paperback, 265 pp., $7.99/9.99 CA$
This noir novel, written in the style of classic crime writer Georges Simenon, is the first in a trilogy, originally a single novel, entitled The Twenty-Year Death. With or without that homage, it certainly stands on its own as recommended reading. (Each of the three books that make up the trilogy was published by Hard Case Crime in July of 2014, with the original comprising all three published in August of 2012.) They are set in different decades of the last century (1931, 1941 and 1951), with the 2nd and 3rd written in the style of the equally famed writers Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson. The whole follows an American author and his much younger French wife, as well as several other well-written protagonists to greater and lesser degrees, varying with each book.
The book opens in the French village of Verargent, with the discovery of a body lying dead in the street, a local baker having come upon the corpse while walking home after work during a deluge. The investigation falls to Chief Inspector Pelleter and the local chief of police, Letreau. The novel unwinds over a period of less than a month, with the case getting more and more curious. And it begins and ends in the nearby eponymous prison, where Pelleter has been called, after a fashion, by a sadistic murderer incarcerated there for several years, Mahossier, who has in the past given him information leading to the inspector being able to close theretofore unsolved cases. Further investigation uncovers the fact that the dead man had been a prisoner at Malniveau, and had been murdered. As things proceed, there are several more dead bodies discovered, and two young boys go missing, as well as a young woman, the French wife of the American author mentioned above.
Pelleter has his work cut out for him, it would seem. He muses: "He knew what had happened in many instances, but he did not know why or how, and therefore he did not know who. He knew nothing." Although newly written, this is a classic noir procedural, and it is recommended.
The Falling Star: The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy Book 2
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
144 Southwark St., London, England, SE1 OUP
9781781167946, Paperback, 238 pp., $7.99/9.99 CA$
The second of the books comprising The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy, this book feels more "noir" than its predecessor, "Malniveau Prison" (which took place in France), opening as it doers in the world of Hollywood, at a movie studio in what is here called San Angelo, California, in 1941. Two of the characters from Book 1, Clotilde-ma-Fleur Rosenkrantz, a beautiful young woman, and her much older, alcoholic husband, Shem, are now, a decade later, respectively a movie star who goes by Chloe Rose, and a movie script writer, both at Merton Stein productions. The protagonist in the new book is Dennis Foster, ex-cop and now a private detective, hired by Al Knox, the studio's chief of security, to act as sort of a bodyguard for Clotilde, who thinks she's being followed. When Foster protests that he is not a bodyguard, Knox tells him ". . . . she only thinks she's being followed. You just need to make her feel safe. For show."
Although Chloe had "displaced champagne as America's favorite French import," there is nothing celestial about her. Her husband, Shem, "looked like a stereotype of the great American author, which he was." As things progress, Foster doesn't like that he is "just here for show, a piece of set decoration, and not a very necessary one either. This case already had a mystery man on the set, a mystery man on the phone, the mystery man that the man on the phone was bargaining for, the mystery man who was drinking and laughing with Shem Rosenkrantz upstairs. I was one too many. I felt like I had come to the party late and got seated at the wrong table," and that he was "hired to babysit a paranoid prima donna." And when more than one dead body is discovered, it serves only to make his assignment more complex, and much more difficult.
The author has the noir writing down pat. There is the requisite male movie star, whose butler was "bald with a horseshoe of hair around the back of his head, a pencil mustache, and a tuxedo with white gloves." A reference to the WPA and a woman with a "tea-length skirt" place it firmly in its era. As well, nothing in these pages reflect what we today call politically correct attitudes. And when Foster is beaten up by men determined to keep him away from the case, the following morning "I had to get undressed before I could get dressed again, which only hurt a little. No more than getting gored by a bull." A man who keeps his word, he will not turn his back on has tasks of finding the killer and saving Chloe from herself.
As was the first book in the trilogy, the novel is very entertaining, and is recommended. And I now have in front of me the last novel in the trilogy, "Police at the Funeral," to which I am very much looking forward.
Police at the Funeral
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, NY, NY 10025
144 Southwark St., London, England, SE1 OUP
9781781167953, Paperback, 232 pp., $7.99/9.99 CA$
The last of the books comprising The Twenty-Year Death Trilogy, takes place not in France, as did the first, nor in Southern California, as did the second, but in Calvert City, Maryland. The two characters from both earlier books return here: Clotilde-ma-Fleur Rosenkrantz, a beautiful young woman who reached film stardom as Chloe Rose, and her much older, alcoholic husband, Shem, who had achieved fame as an author, later as a movie script writer.
Time has not been kind to Mr. or Mrs. Rosenkrantz: Clotilde is now and has been for the last ten years ensconced in a private psychiatric hospital, and Shem is now washed up, and broke. Shem returns to Maryland for the first time in 30 years following the death of Quinn Rosenkrantz, his first wife, from whom he has been divorced for 20 of those years, for the reading of her Will. Deeply in debt, Shem has traveled 3,000 miles more than anything because he is desperate for what he hopes will be the money left to him by his wife, who was from a very wealthy family, his desperation caused by his need to keep Clotilde from having to be placed in a state institution. It had been three years since Shem had seen his and Quinn's son, Joe, not since his high school graduation, but they of course do meet again at the office of the attorney in whose office the Will is to be read to all concerned.
The presence of the police at the funeral referenced in the title is part of an investigation into another death which follows quickly upon the scene described above. The book is beautifully wrought, the plotting very original, and the whole a suspenseful read (more so than the two books which preceded it, in fact) that I devoured in the space of several hours. To say more would necessitate spoilers, so I leave it to the reader to discover and explore for him or herself. (Just to whet one's appetite, I will only add that this was the first time I have read a book where the author makes the analogy that "killing someone was a whole lot like writing, a creative endeavor.")
Darker Edge of Desire
Mitzi Szereto, editor
Cleis Press, Inc.
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, California 94710.
9781940550008, $14.95, 235 pages, www.cleispress.com
Darker Edge of Desire is a collection of erotic gothic short stories. There are various types of short stories. Some are easy reads that let the reader drift through the tale. And then there are the ones that force the reader to do more that drift. The reader has to study the words and add in what the writer has purposefully left out. The reader in those tales becomes a participant and isn't just along for the ride. These dark tales are the latter. The mix of gothic tales range from modern times to a mythical past. The erotica can and does explore the extremes of mores. But, for those who are willing to dive into the dark portions of their psychic, these gothic tales fit the bill.
Each of the fourteen tales is a short easy read of a few minutes to a half hour. The stories, although short, are not light reading. They are best read when alone so you can savor the illusions the writers have created. The tales cater to the characters you would expect in gothic stories -- vampires, werewolves, mythical creatures and broken minds... To some the sexual nature between the characters can be disturbing. We tend to publically avoid our own sexuality. This avoidance is what makes these gothic tales as powerful as they are.
Spoiler alert: The collection starts with a Scheherazade wife to a killer and ends with a werewolf Snow White. For those more literary, the riddle of Poe's famous last words in the middle stands out. Some are a more standard paranormal fare. A few pay honor to Greek and European myths. And some are even harder to place.
Darker Edge of Desire is recommended for those who are willing to explore their dark side. A key decision must be made -- are you looking for a story to last for minutes or for days. Some might find the novel length fits their reading style better than the short story but the immediacy of the short can make a more lasting impression and you will remember at least one of these shorts for years.
A Hymn Before Battle
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00BEQP50Y (Print ISBN: 9780671318413)
ebook price: $0.00, 480 pages, www.amazon.com
A Hymn Before Battle is a military SF that reads like a gritty war novel with a touch of SF technology. The battle sequences have the feel of a storyline from a Bond, Coyle or Clancy novel. The science fiction part is the vague superficial type you would expect in a popular space opera. The result is a fun story that reads like a book half of its length. It is the perfect intro to SF for war buffs and a great relaxation for SF readers.
Matt O'Shea is an ex-soldier working as a program designer in a high tech company when he gets recalled to duty. Our section of the galaxy is populated by civilized but passive races. A militarily advanced galactic civilization, the Posleen, have been conquering and destroying the local worlds around earth and repopulating those worlds with Posleen. The pacifist interstellar species surround earth can't stop them and earth will be shortly invaded by the Posleen. The regional civilizations have offered their technology if we will help them fight the Posleen. Matt has the perfect technical and practical experience to help the world develop and design the weapons and tactics needed by earth to survive the onslaught of a galactic scourge. But as part of his job he has to both design our part in the war and be in the front lines to modify the tactics and weapons as the Posleen adjust to a new war with earth.
A Hymn Before Battle is a must read for war buffs and SF readers who enjoy space opera style stories. It is well written and balanced. Since it is part of the Baen free Library, it is also a free book. There is little excuse not to read it. The only drawback with the story is that it is only book one in a series. You will have to find and purchase the other eleven books in the series and hope that more aren't written before you finish.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
59 Reasons To Write
480 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781625310033, $23.00, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In order to teach writing effectively, teachers must be writers themselves. They must experience the same uncertainty of starting a new draft and then struggling to revise. As they learn to move past the fear of failure, they discover the nervous rush and exhilaration of sharing work with an audience, just as their students do. Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students. "59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers" shows teachers and librarians who teach writing how to be stronger role models for their students. Dozens of guest authors also share their writing processes and secrets, from brainstorming ideas and organizing research to developing characters and getting unstuck from writer's block. "59 Reasons to Write" is for anyone who has always wanted to write but never managed to get into the habit.
Critique: Although principally intended for the use of K-12 classroom teachers as part of a school's literary skills curriculum, "59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers" is also ideal as a do-it-yourself instruction manual for anyone of any age wanting to learn how to write well and deals with such critically important issues as Getting Started; Organizing; Characters; Point of View, Voice, and Mood; Setting; Plot and Pacing; Flowing Between Nonfiction and Fiction - Finding the Story; Poetry; I'm Stuck; Revising and Critiquing; and Time to Reflect. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of Recommended Resources and a useful Index, "59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections.
Teresa My Love
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231149600, $35.00, 648pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Mixing fiction, history, psychoanalysis, and personal fantasy, "Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila" is the story of Sylvia Leclercq, a French psychoanalyst, academic, and incurable insomniac, as she becomes obsessed with sixteenth-century Saint Teresa of Avila and becomes consumed with charting her life. Traveling to Spain, Leclercq, Kristeva's probing alter ego, visits the sites and embodiments of the famous mystic and awakens to her own desire for faith, connection, and rebellion.
Critique: A massive, complex, and detailed novel that is deftly translated into English for an American readership by Lorna Scott Fox, "Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila" clearly documents the undeniable literary talent of author Julia Kristeva. Drawing somewhat on her professional background as a psychiatrist, Julia Kristeva incorporates a fascinating diversity of historical detail, philosophical citation, literary references, and a riveting storytelling style. The result is a compelling and entertaining read that lingers in the mind long after the novel itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. An extraordinary literary accomplishment, "Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila" is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should also be noted that "Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99).
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628724172, $24.95, 312pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Beatles arrived in the United States on February 7, 1964, and immediately became a constant, compelling presence in fans' lives. For the next six years, the band presented a nonstop deluge of sounds, words, images, and ideas, transforming the childhood and adolescence of millions of baby boomers. "Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World" explains how the band became a source of emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual nurturance in fans' lives, creating a relationship that was historically unique. Looking at that relationship against the backdrop of the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War, political assassinations, and other events of those tumultuous years, "Beatleness" examines critically the often-heard assertion that the Beatles "changed everything" and shows how - through the interplay between the group, the fans, and the culture - that change came about. A generational memoir and cultural history based on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with first-generation fans, "Beatleness" allows readers to experience (or re-experience) just what it was like to be a young person during those eventful and transformative years. Its fresh approach offers many new insights into the entire Beatle phenomenon and explains why the group still means so much to so many.
Critique: Informed and informative, ""Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World" is an inherently fascinating read and a 'must' for the legions of Beatles fans. Certain to be an enduringly popular addition to any community library collection, it should be noted that "Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World" is also available in a Kindle edition ($1.99) and as an Audio Book Download ($14.95).
A Penny A Kiss
North Star Press of St. Cloud
PO Box 451, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0451
9780878397280, $14.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A young southern family moves from the hills of small-town West Virginia to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1939 and enters a new social stratum. After struggling to fit into a private girl's high school, the daughter attends a western college, where she suffers staggering defeat and enters a relationship that sets her on a singular path. Striving to carve out her identity within the rigid moral codes of the conventional Forties and Fifties, she defiantly pushes the front edge of the emerging hippy protest movements. The demands of academia, isolation, and personal relationships teach her that there's a price to pay for freedom.
Critique: Told with an impressive candor, "A Penny A Kiss" is the personal life story of Judy McConnell and her struggle to create her own identity within the cultural context of gender and class traditions. An inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "A Penny A Kiss" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library American Biography collections. It should be noted that "A Penny A Kiss" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
The Grateful Life
Nina Lesowitz & Mary Beth Sammons
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781936740895, $15.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness, and the Science of Contentment" is a guide to discovering and achieving one's dreams by harnessing the power of a positive attitude. In years of research and practice, authors Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons have discovered that grateful living can transform lives. Grateful people are happier people. They are healthier and less stressed. They report much higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships and are less likely to credit luck with the good fortune of others. "The Grateful Life" is showcases inspiring stories about those who exercise gratitude as a spiritual practice to rise out of adversity to new life. It also shows how grateful living is central to the good life and to attracting abundance. Filled with motivational quotes, resources, and exercises, "The Grateful Life" helps readers on their journey to creating the life they've always wanted. Taking the concept of Living Life as a Thank You to the next level, "The Grateful Life" includes absorbing and transformative stories from real people who unveil the secret to achieving successes both big and small.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and presented, "The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness, and the Science of Contentment" is as practical and informative as it is inspired and inspiring. A truly rewarding read from beginning to end, "The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness, and the Science of Contentment" is very highly recommended reading for anyone seeking to improve themselves and the emotional quality of their daily lives. It should be noted that "The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness, and the Science of Contentment" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99), as an Audio Book CD ($20.57), and as an Audio Book Download ($17.95).
Style Icons: Golden Boys
Paul G. Roberts
Fashion Industry Broadcast (FIB)
9781502363985, $45.00, 202 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The birth of the male sex symbol began when actors did more than jump on and off horses or swoop swashbuckling from the prow of a pirate ship. Sex appeal came when men looked like they intended to have sex. The repression of the Victorian age meant that heroes in films were required to represent a certain moral standard, but Rudolph Valentino proved there was no desire without shadow, ambiguity and perhaps even a smidge of black eyeliner. He was a hero but not necessarily one of the good guys. Through the 20th century masculine appeal continued to be defined in the movies with such icons as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, and Sidney Poitier. The element of the dandy, the cultivated and well spoken gentleman, is a trait that began to fade fast in appeal by the mid twentieth century when manly men like Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Rock Hudson delivered less talk and more action.
Critique: Profusely illustrated with an extraordinarily well informed and informative commentary, "Style Icons: Golden Boys" is the first volume in a multi-volume series showcasing iconic men and women whose influence with respect to popular culture was particularly pervasive. Very highly recommended for personal and community library collections, it should be noted that "Style Icons: Golden Boys" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Stella by Starlight
Sharon M. Draper, author
Athenum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781442494978, $16.99, www.amazon.com
An eleven-year-old black girl living in segregated, 1932 North Carolina chronicles her feelings about Ku Klux Klan violence and other topics in this middle grade novel that celebrates African-American storytelling and the power of a united community. Stella by Starlight doesn't break new ground in its depiction of the hooded Klansmen who set fires and verbally and physically accost black residents, while by day holding positions of community importance.
Neither does the book show the full horror of what the Klan was capable of. That is truncated with some violence shown, but no deaths except one referenced in a flashback. One palpable scene, in which the main character is struck in the face at the age of five by a white doctor, is also told in a flashback, dimming its impact.
Characters often feel stereotypical - from the wealthy white girl whose family life is less than perfect, to the white doctor who predictably refuses to treat black patients in an emergency, to an array of strong black characters who refuse to be broken by oppression.
And some story threads - like a late night encounter between the main character and a white girl - are inexplicably cut off and could have been further developed.
However, what makes this a worthy story is its focus on ethic storytelling - with a wonderful interlude, midway, involving stories told at a community potluck.
And abundant use of description and detail lend beautiful authenticity. From a handmade family heirloom dining table to cornhusk brooms, black children's cold bare feet in late autumn, newspaper-insulted walls, church spirituals, and oiling door hinges with lard to keep them from squeaking, the author goes to great lengths to accurately and richly set the place and time.
The writing itself is poetic and lush, bolstered by the inclusion of Negro spiritual song lyrics. The story just could have stretched itself a bit more.
Courage Has No Color
Tanya Lee Stone, author
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9780763651176, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Retrospective interviews with surviving members of a World War II-era U.S. Army black paratrooper battalion lend rich, palpable emotion to a story that waited seven decades to be fully told.
"Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels, America's First Black Paratroopers" is thickly laced with accounts of prejudice in the Armed Forces, and reflections on the pain that instilled.
"While I was in uniform, I was not allowed to eat in white establishments...It was not only insulting but hurtful because I was one of those fighting for the country," one black soldier is quoted in 1942.
Ultimately, while they trained hard to become elite paratroopers, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion never saw combat in World War II - they were shipped instead to the American west to fight forest fires.
Through scores of historic photos, many plucked from forgotten archive files; skilled historical research techniques; great, detailed explanations of everything from what it's like to jump out of an airplane to the construction of Japanese balloon bombs that sailed into the American west during World War II; and a determination to tell the complete, difficult story, the author paints a deeply human picture of a group of men who answered a call, stood up to formidable obstacles, and ultimately paved the road for the racial integration of the Armed Forces in the years after World War II.
Beautifully done, important history.
Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer
1155 Union Circle, Denton, Texas 76203
9780991151509, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Be sure to have a couple of boxes of tissues next to you when you read this book. You will have a hard time putting it down. Fred Funk tells the story of a man who was "thrown away" in Throwaway Son. You will wonder how a person, especially a mother, could do the things that were done to Boss Wilford.
"Damn! Damn! How could she treat me that way?" was his mantra as Boston Ray Wilford related his life to his best friend, Dale Henderson.
Growing up as an abused child in the 30's and 40's, Boss lived under conditions that would be horrific for an adult much less an impressionable young boy. What could save him? Read the book to find out what happens to Boss.
Told in serial form, as his strength allowed, Boss related the story to his best friend about how he lived and what he did to survive. You will be appalled and, in the next chapter, cheer him on as you read this story of highs and lows. This book will take you to a place and time you will possibly have trouble believing even existed. Or believe it could happen to a person. It is definitely what is known in the reading world as a page turner.
Fred Funk is the author of award winning Ministry and Moonshine, Moonshiner's Revenge and Life and Death on Cannon Creek. Mr. Funk has written his books from personal experiences. He started out as a Methodist minister in East Texas and later switched careers to accounting and finance. He is an active member and former president of the Denton Noon Kiwanis Club. Now retired, he lives in Aubrey, Texas with his wife, Dana, of fifty plus years. They have two daughters and a son, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Tovi the Penguin Goes Away for Christmas
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
100 Enterprise Way, Suite A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781500983932, $9.25, www.amazon.com
Janina Rossiter has written and illustrated a new book about Tovi the Penguin. It is a lovely Christmas story that you must read to your children. They learn that Christmas is not about getting a lot of presents, but about love and being with family and friends.
Tovi and his friends go on a Christmas trip, but a disaster happens - there is a storm and Santa can't find them. They figure out a way to celebrate anyway. How the friends turn this adversity into a wonderful celebration is so very heartwarming and resourceful. Children and adults alike can find comfort and satisfaction in how the penguin friends celebrate Christmas without getting presents. The end of the story is going to make you cry and laugh with joy - it did me.
The brightly colored pictures are exactly illustrative of the story and children will love pore over them and imagine their own story. Good illustrations are a great way to encourage a child's imagination and Ms. Rossiter does it beautifully.
Janina Rossiter studied Communication design in Hamburg, Germany then Janina worked as a packaging designer in both Germany and England. She then settled down as a freelance designer in Paris, where she currently lives with her husband and her young daughter, Malyn. She began illustrating and writing her books as a result of the arrival of her daughter. Soon, Tovi the Penguin was born and is now inspiring children all over the world.
Be sure to check out her other books about Tovi and his friends. Watch her website www.tovithepenguin.com for adventures about Tovi and his friends.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9780143186458, $16.00, www.amazon.com
When I picked up The Cat by Edeet Ravel, I was prepared for a bit of tugging at the heartstrings. I was trepidatious, however, as I wasn't sure how prepared I was at the moment to find myself mired in the depths of human suffering; however, a quick look at the summary assured me that, at the end of the day, I would walk away from the tale with some semblance of hope. What I encountered was more than an incredibly poignant account of one woman's loss and her journey through grief to the beginnings of healing; it was an opportunity to glean a truly visceral understanding of the process that enables us to continue living when we feel that there is no longer a reason for doing so.
Elise and her eleven-year-old son enjoy the easy rapport of two who mean the world to one another. Together, they have built a life perfectly suited to their tastes, complete with a cat who won them over with her airplane-engine purrings and penchant for offering scratchy kitty kisses. When they met her at the animal shelter several years prior, she was timid and rather ratty-looking, a tortoiseshell with relatively little chance of finding a home. Even as the cage door was opened, she didn't move from her small plastic bed; from Elise's perspective, Pursie, short for Persephone, had given up hope.
When Elise hears the screeching of tires and subsequent ruckus of a car swerving off the road and into her front lawn, she initially takes the tall, balding man leaning over her son, checking his pulse, to be a Good Samaritan. Perhaps he is ill, she thinks, failing to make the connection between the burgundy vehicle in her yard and her son's body, which lay twisted on the ground. Only later does she discover that the man was the car's driver, who fell asleep at the wheel, taking the life of her son who was simply crouching in the grass, studying insects.
Unable to fathom how to go on, Elise plans to cut the furnace pipes, releasing carbon monoxide (and herself from the depths of her pain), so that she might join her son in whatever lies beyond this life. Then, Pursie meows, reminding Elise of her son's unspoken deathbed wish -- that his beloved Pursie be well-tended in his absence. Horrified by her predicament, forced to remain alive as there is no one to entrust with Pursie's care, Elise endures each day though she knows not how. Throughout the process, she gleans insight into the past and a clearer understanding of the dynamics at play within her most significant relationships. It is in the midst of her self-imposed isolation that she begins to touch upon the acceptance and compassion that allow for true forgiveness, very gradually opening herself once again to connection and possibility.
As a counselor, I couldn't have been more impressed by the author's depiction of the journey through grief. Elise's perspective, especially during times of acute hopelessness, was shared in a manner so very genuine, heartbreaking and true-to-life. I continue to be taken by the courage of the author in honoring Elise's pain with accuracy and honesty. The entire work is a tribute to those who have suffered and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit regardless of the individual outcome.
There wasn't a moment -- until the last seven pages -- that I questioned the plotline or any other aspect of the author's creative process as the book felt more a memoir than a work of fiction; however, the conclusion required a suspension of disbelief that I was unwilling to extend for it felt completely unnatural, not to mention that doing so would utterly compromise Elise's journey toward healing. Had the conclusion suggested a more grounded and sustainable course, I would have happily shed the joyful tears than Elise deserves. Then again, perhaps that's my own baggage talking.
Regardless, The Cat is an incredibly touching story of a mother's love for her son, the growth that takes place in the midst of the soul's darkest night and a subtle assurance that the laws of karma are always in play. More importantly, it is a reminder that where there is love, there is life... and hope.
The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles
Translated by William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
9780143121558, $16.00, www.amazon.com
When I picked up The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, I anticipated an escapist sort of read, complete with a healthy dose of humor, a handful of irreverence and a touch of the utterly ridiculous; and, that is precisely what I discovered Katherine Pancol's novel, which received rave reviews upon its original publication in France, to be. What I stumbled upon quite unexpectedly, however, was an inspirational tale of one woman's midlife journey toward fulfillment, contentment and self-discovery. Pleased to encounter a strong female protagonist who holds fast to her honesty and humility, I didn't think there was much more that I could possibly ask... until I found myself laughing aloud for the first time in years. Indeed, no author has been able to provoke such merriment since Armistead Maupin delighted me with his Tales of the City series back in the 1990s.
All Josephine Cortes asked was that her chronically unemployed husband Antoine find some type of work to help make ends meet; yet, when he runs off with Mylene, his manicurist, to start a crocodile farm in Kenya, Josephine realizes that her family's well-being rests squarely upon her shoulders. The mother of Zoe, a sweet and precocious preteen, and Hortense, a beautiful and insufferably manipulative and egocentric teenager, Josephine has her hands full, not only with financial obligations and family demands, but also with her postdoctoral work. Specializing in twelfth century history and literature, she is an expert in her field; yet, her overbearing mother Henriette and shallow, attention-seeking sister Iris have never given her the respect or validation, much less love, that is her due. Instead, her mother chides her for falling short as a wife and failing to secure a "real" job, whereas Iris simply carries on the tradition begun in childhood of taking full advantage of her sister's kindness.
When Antoine is unable to make the payments on the loan he took out (which Josephine unwittingly co-signed) before he left for Kenya, Josephine finds that she is on the hook for the debt and picks up work as a translator rather than default on the account. Around the same time, her socialite sister Iris gets caught up in the moment at a dinner party and boasts that she is writing a book, thinking that the conversation will soon be forgotten. When it becomes clear that her made-up literary endeavor remains a hot topic of conversation, she asks Josephine to write the book for her. She promises Josephine the advance and the royalties in exchange for full credit of her work. Josephine ultimately agrees; yet, when she hands over the manuscript, she begins to wonder if she hasn't shortchanged herself yet again.
If truth be told, though, Josephine grows far richer from the experience than can be measured in euros, for it is through the writing of A Most Humble Queen that Josephine begins to come into her own. Not only does she prove herself to be a talented writer and accomplished scholar, but she is able to keep her family afloat in spite of any and all obstacles that come her way. In addition, the creative process allows for repressed memories to surface, offering Josephine the opportunity to process events back to her childhood. Given that her transformation also entails enhancements to her physical attributes, if she captures the attention of a handsome Italian intellectual while she's at it, so much the better.
In the novel's supplementary material, Pancol notes that the crocodiles' yellow eyes represent the allure of wealth which often leads to one's demise; yet, she extends this metaphor such that, if the yellow eyes represent the allure of wealth, the crocodile could conceivably represent wealth and/or greed itself. Not only were crocodiles the subject of the tongue-twister taught to Josephine and Iris when they were children, but Iris proudly acquires a pair of crocodile boots during a sale at Givenchy during which she stabs a fellow shopper with the clasp of her bracelet. In a chic Parisian restaurant, a gossip-monger is referred to as "an old crocodile lurking in a swamp" and Hortense lays in her bed with her legs together "like a mermaid's tail -- or a crocodile." Each subsequent reference comes across as a subtle collusion with the author given that we as readers have arrived at an understanding that the character him/herself has not.
In spite of the avarice which drives so many of the plot twists, even the most minor characters remain fully three-dimensional. Although it isn't addressed directly, the significance or meaning attributed to the acquisition of riches is unique to each individual. Whereas wealth is perceived as worth for Iris, it represents redemption and validation for Antoine and security for Josiane, the longtime mistress of Josephine and Iris's stepfather. Desire, fear, identity and ambition are intimately tied into the importance placed upon material success; yet, there is relatively little elaboration on these themes. Indeed, I found that which lay behind their quest to be more compelling than the simple contention that money doesn't buy happiness though I'm not certain that this was the author's intent.
The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles may not be a true literary masterpiece due to its rather formulaic women's literature approach; yet, given its success as a Cinderella-story with enough silliness to keep me giggling helplessly into the night, I can only hope that the novel's sequels will be translated into English sooner rather than later. Otherwise, I'll have no choice but to brush up on my French or simply revisit my favorite titles from back in the day.
Socialcide: How America Is Loving Itself to Death
Leo J. Battenhausen
Faith Books and More Publishing
3255 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, Suite 250, Suwanee, GA 30024
9781939761279, $29.95, http://www.faithbooksandmore.com
"The unhappiest people in this world, are those who care the most about what other people think" - C. JoyBell C.
It doesn't take much to be swept away by the tides of change, ever sweeping across the collective conscience of our nation. It doesn't require your wilful participation, it only demands you to suspend your thought and go with the flow. But not all free flowing particles are alike, some are different from others, some are stubborn and inquisitive and dare question the absurdity that threatens to sweep them all away to annihilation. And when important questions are raised, intelligent answers are sure to follow.
Author Leo J. Battenhausen's book Socialcide: How America Is Loving Itself To Death is a psycho-spiritual exploration into the ills that seem to plague the modern day American society. The author talks about the Me generation of today that seem to have forgotten even the basic social etiquettes and morals which were a part of everyday living for the previous generation. He claims Socialcide is destroying the basic fabric of our society one moral value at a time. Balancing his own theories and hypothesis with scientific facts and studies, he not only lists the various problems but also the means to overcome these before it's too late.
The book has a wonderful foreword by John Kelly who amongst other things is also an author and the co-star in the Discovery Channel show 'Dark Minds'. And once you get past the various introductions, you will be greeted by small and precise chapters delivering exactly what their titles denote and they do so in an extremely professional manner as well. In the book the author presents numerous real life examples of loner people, who may have been self sufficient and mighty hiding behind their online personas but when they ventured out into the open, their inability to cope with reality and their insufficient emotional responses often resulted in horrific outbursts of violence. The author also make an argument for coming out of our shells and communicating face to face and making a sincere effort to get to know our neighbourhoods and community better.
A lot of readers will be shocked to learn that the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases has removed Narcissistic Personality Disorder from its list because it's too commonplace to call it as a disease anymore. The author presents hard evidence linking the evolution of narcissistic individuals, sociopaths and psychopaths in our society with the increasing cases of depression, drug addiction, marital problems, violent crimes, financial mess and other forms of abuse. And in a society that gets too scared or awkward discussing religion publicly, the author who is a professional psychologist too has shown tremendous courage in bringing religion and spirituality into a discussion about the ills facing our society.
The author also makes many valid points like how nowadays it's easier to get the youth to organise a flash mob dance than have them come together to do some actual good for the society. The author lists 1978 as the year which probably heralded the beginning of the Socialcide era with the introduction of cell phones, video games that could be played in homes and the birth of the test tube baby.
For the many light bulbs that are sure to go off in your head at the end of every chapter, I wholeheartedly recommend this book and suggest everyone to grab a copy at the earliest.
Whatever Happened to the Zodiac Killer?
Katherin B. Fitzpatrick
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
9781629525624, $18.99, www.amazon.com
"Coincidence is merely the puppeteers' curtain, hiding the hands that pull the world's strings" - Kaleb Nation
Psychologists have often said that a man's character is derived from three elements, these being his inherited genes, his childhood & upbringing and an X factor that no one has been able to decipher till date. And it is this X factor that makes dissecting the life of a person all the more interesting. A person may be good or bad, he may be a scientist or a sinner or both but we still don't know what makes them like that. And what if it was something otherworldly that ultimately molded people's character? Then the question arises, do people then deserve credit for all the good that they do and more importantly, do they deserve the blame for all the bad that they do as well?
Author Katherin B. FitzPatrick's new book "Whatever Happened to the Zodiac Killer?" is a fictionalized account of true events that the author was privy to in her life. Using only a few aliases, the author narrates what she claims is the actual truth behind the Zodiac killer, the world famous malevolent killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in California, USA for almost a decade from late 1960's to late 1970's. She tells the story of a couple who spotted the Zodiac killer no less than three times on a 1978 mid October night and whose actions ensured the disappearance of the famous killer. The author claims it was a proverbial fight between good and evil, with powerful angel armies on the couple's side and dark demonic forces on the killer's side and ultimately it was the battalion of angel armies that protected them from the Zodiac killer's demonic threat to their lives.
San Francisco, California is an iconic city-county in North America that is famous for its hills, sun rises, the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and the bustling people and lifestyle that has always made this a fascinating city to live in. But like all fairytale stories, this city too had a dark past to it because of an evil killer who terrorized its citizens and made a mockery of its police department and judiciary. Zodiac Killer's terrorizing ways, his phantom escape from the clutches of police and his mysterious disappearance have always been a hot topic for gossip among popular culture connoisseurs. Everyone has had a different take on who he was and what happened to him. Katherin's version is not only different and unique from them but it is also perhaps the most original one of the lot.
Since it's not fair to readers who haven't read the book, I won't reveal too much of the book's main theme or of its plot line. But I will say this; people shouldn't approach this book looking to get an insight into the Zodiac case told through perhaps a hard cold journalistic point of view or in the style of a detective story, this is not that kind of abook. And the author has openly stated in the beginning that it is a story based on true events with only a few fictionalized parts, so it basically comes down to the reader willing to take that metaphorical leap of faith and trusting the author's word.If you are willing to do so then you won't need any further convincing and will believe the author when she talks about her many unique experiences associated with this case. And that is why I personally enjoyed the book, as it is different and it showed an alternative outlook and ending to this highly mysterious case.
I would suggest you to approach the book with an open mind, be ready to question but do bear in mind that not everything in this world of ours can be explained with a rational and logical answer. And as they say, there is no absolute truth and only variations of the reality as experienced by different people.
Death by Autopsy: A Toni Day Mystery
Jane Bennett Munro
c/o Author House
1663 Liberty Dr. Suite #300, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781491744796, $17.95, www.amazon.com
"By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too" - William Shakespeare
Author Jane Bennett Munro's latest novel 'Death by Autopsy: A Toni Day mystery' is the fourth book in the Toni Day series of mystery books. As the self serving title suggests, it tells the tale of Toni Day, a pathologist by profession who takes it upon herself to solve a couple of mysterious deaths when she is accused of causing death to a patient, death by autopsy. Beulah Mae Pritchard was the woman Toni was supposed to conduct an autopsy on but when she wakes up alive on the table; it sets in motion a series of events that spells trouble for all those involved in the case. Accused of malpractice and being sued, Toni works hard to get her name cleared while also dealing with multiple threats, including one from the actual killers of Beulah and her husband Dwayne.
Now although this is the fourth book the titular protagonist Toni Day makes an appearance in, Death by Autopsy is the first book I've read in the series. But that didn't stop me and I'm sure it won't stop you either from enjoying this book as a standalone mystery novel. All the characters have been developed in such a manner that you will get to know each person intimately through the course of the book. Toni, her husband Hal, mother Fiona, step father Nigel and a host of secondary characters, including the antagonists are all real and life like and this helps in connecting with their story and emotions. And although it takes advantage of a few fictional liberties to move the narrative forward, it still turns out to be a highly credible and believable story.
This is a medical mystery novel that is thoroughly researched but that's no surprise considering the author is a board certified pathologist in real life. She takes you through the day to day happenings in the life of a pathologist and lets you know that the job isn't as glamorous or easy as it's portrayed on television. And you really got to have a hard stomach to sit through some of the passages as she literally dissects the autopsy procedures, in graphic detail too and it isn't recommended for the squeamish readers. The strength of the research can be felt in other areas too when she's discussing about the irrigation company, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary as well. And unlike a lot of other books in this genre, Jane hasn't tried to dumb it down to reach a wider audience. And I appreciate this because even if you can't follow all the medical terms and procedures at least you feel that the characters uttering these lines know what they are doing, making the proceedings seem more real.
Toni Day is a woman of strong principles who is intelligent, honest, energetic and exuberant. She has got great attention to detail and the tenacity to follow up on even the hardest of leads, two qualities that any successful detective or sleuth must possess. The first person narrative will take the reader into the thick of the action and the author has managed to make this work throughout the length of the book without it ever becoming monotonous or stale. She also has a great mix of secondary characters who will keep you entertained with their quirks and dysfunctional interpersonal interactions.
A lot of the story moves forward on the strength of some nicely written rapid fire dialogues spoken between the various characters, this also help in creating artificial urgency in the narrative. With almost every chapter ending on a cliff hanger note, you will be hard pressed not to finish the book in a single sitting.
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
Madam Belle: Sex, Money and Influence in a Southern Brothel
University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508
9780813147062, $24.95, 232 pages, cloth
Madam Belle: Sex, Money and Influence in a Southern Brothel is a finely crafted, fast-paced, fascinating regional historical biography certain to have widespread appeal to both nonfiction and fiction readers. Author Maryjean Wall began writing about Belle Brezing while an undergraduate at University of Kentucky in the early 1970's. After a 35-year career as an award-winning Turf journalist for the Lexington Herald-Leader she returned to complete a doctorate in history and became a Lecturer in the same department at UK. Wall has meticulously researched the subject and used her insider's knowledge of the business and colorful history of horse racing to insightfully capture the economic time and place that made Belle's elegant establishment at 59 Megowan Street the gathering place for prominent, powerful and privileged gentlemen.
Belle Brezing (1860-1940) was a remarkable woman who came of age during post-Civil War Reconstruction and blossomed into a thriving entrepreneur and real estate investor during the Gilded Era. From the humblest beginnings as a fatherless, abandoned child, Belle had the motivation, drive and self-determination to seize the opportunities afforded her to amass wealth and notoriety as the madam of the most expensive and luxurious brothel in Lexington. Time magazine and newspapers throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky ran her obituary when she died at age 80. The doors of her vaunted house had been closed for business for over two decades but the memories and anecdotes lingered along with closely-held secrets. The titian haired madam, beautifully coiffed and clad in fashionable evening dress, welcomed guests to a nightly salon. Her establishment was funded in 1891 by an astounding gift of $50,000 (worth millions in current purchasing power) by William and George, scions of the Philadelphia industrialist Singerly family, which also enabled her to make other real estate investments. In a red-light district with over 150 houses of prostitution, Belle Brezling's was the finest gentlemen's club. She provided a discreet haven for business and pleasure with lively conversations, musical entertainments, excellent food, a well-stocked bar and attractive, attentive ladies of the evening, clad in evening gowns and as skilled in conversation as in their trade. Belle's ladies of the evening were less "soiled doves" than the late 19th century equivalent of elite escorts with fees for services two and one half times the prevailing norm. Indeed, several women left the businesses to become socially accepted wives of out-of-town visitors and one infamously wed a local judge. Belle made more money from her real estate holdings than from her soirees. Her account ledger documented income including weekly rent paid by her "girls" as well as monies expended in a meticulous accounting that included the payment for liquor licenses as she was astutely careful in operating within the tolerance of the law.
With employment options severely limited to females from the lowest classes, prostitution was prevalent. She had borne a child at 14 and while still in her teens had been married, divorced, then risen from the streets to join a brothel located in the Mary Todd Lincoln House run by Madam Jennie Hill who served as her mentor in dress and demeanor. Within two years, she was able to open her first house in a building later acquired by Transylvania University. Her upscale mansion for men was opened in 1891 with a grand fete attended by many community leaders. It was an orderly and safe environment for her employees with medical care, lessons and money advanced to new girls for appropriate attire. Belle even provided entertainments for the women and celebrated holidays before working hours as attested by Kentucky's John Jacob Niles who as a struggling young balladeer was hired in 1912 to sing hymns on Christmas morning to "the girls".
Many Kentucky historical scholars concur Lexington's most notorious madam served as the inspiration for Belle Watling, immortalized in novel and film, in Margaret Mitchell's now classic Gone With The Wind. The novelist's husband John Marsh had worked as a Police Beat reporter while studying at University of Kentucky in the final years before Belle closed business in 1917. Marsh spent many evenings in the kitchen of Brezling's brothel sipping coffee and absorbing stories he later related to his sister and journalist wife. The mansion closed in 1917 as vice laws began to be strictly enforced and the formerly flamboyant Belle became a recluse who took her clients' secrets to the grave.
Maryjean Wall did not embellish with fiction the documented facts of Belle Brezing who left neither diary nor memoir. The author has included a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources used. She carefully avoided the temptation romanticize or glamorize the truth about the sad, isolated and sometimes drug-addicted life of prostitutes during the gilded age including Madam Belle. The author's previous book, also published by University of Kentucky Press is titled How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers and Breeders. She has written a fascinating, must-read history of lesser explored aspects of society in Madame Belle.
The Secret Keeper (Home to Hickory Hollow series)
Bethany House Publishers
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 E Fulton Road, Ada, MI 49301
9780764209802, $14.99, Paperback, 352 pages
Interviewer: Linda Hitchcock, Member National Book Critics Circle
Some call it Bonnet Fiction, I call it Success: An Interview with Best-selling Author Beverly Lewis
Critics may dismiss Amish themed novels as "bonnet fiction" but many publishers couldn't wait to jump on this fast trotting horse drawn buggy craze when soft-spoken former Middle School Music and English teacher named Beverly Lewis introduced this skyrocketing gentle genre in 1997. The Shunning introduced protagonist Katie Lapp to legions of adoring fans who welcomed her return as a featured character in The Secret Keeper.
Now a Colorado resident, Beverly Lewis was a 'preacher's kid' raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who turned to memories of her early interactions with the Plain people for inspiration. She topped the New York Times best-seller list with her debut novel and has seldom wavered from this lofty position. Her output is prodigious with over 90 works in print including children and adult series, stand-alone fiction and a couple of cookbooks available in eleven different languages with sales in excess of 18 million in a late-blooming writing career that began two decades ago.
This reviewer caught up with the indefatigable Beverly Lewis at the beginning of her 2013 summer book tour in Bowling Green, Kentucky at a book launch event hosted by the Warren County Public Library for The Secret Keeper, published by Bethany House Publishers, an imprint of Baker Books. The author talk and signing was held on a Wednesday evening; the universal, sacrosanct "church night" here in the heart of the Bible Belt which most event organizers shun as detrimental to attendance. An hour before the program began, lines formed outside the Sloan Convention Center and more than 350 people jammed the seats with the women easily outnumbered men by about thirty to one. Friendly conversations were struck up in the orderly lines as fans discussed their favorite books, series and characters with an easy familiarity. Lewis writes so convincingly about her characters that among the questions posed by the audience concerned what had happened to certain fictional beings after the book ended! It's a tribute to her spellbinding skills as a storyteller. The only conspicuously absent readers were area Amish and Old Order Mennonite fans who may enjoy her work privately but for whom an author event and autograph party is deemed too worldly and not permissible.
Beverly Lewis has made it a priority to stay in touch with her legions of fans via social media through her up-to-date website, Podcasts, and frequent Facebook postings. David Horton, Bethany House's Editorial Director served as driver and facilitator throughout her whirlwind ten day whistle-stop blur of meet-and-greets with 25 stops in Kentucky and Indiana averaging 3 book signings per day including longer, literary events at public libraries in Warren County, Ft. Knox and Grabill Indiana and one day of rest allotted on Sunday.
Beverly Lewis' eyes light up when she is talking about her real Amish friends and her passion for writing. This introspective, self-possessed wife, mother and grandmother has abundant inspiration as well as seemingly boundless energy. Her long-time copy editor shared the amusing office tale with me about the time Mrs. Lewis phoned the lead editor at 2:30 am one chilly winter morning brimming with excitement and wishing to discuss an idea for a new series. Little wonder her fans of all ages buzzed and the room hummed with their excitement to meet her.
Q: What did you do for a living before you began your writing career?
A: I taught in the public schools: music in the morning K through 6 and 5th grade English in the afternoon so my two passions collided through all my life.
Q: What inspired you to write Amish fiction?
A. I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania right across the lane from Amish farm land and I knew some of the girls there. As a young girl I became more and more involved in their families' lives. It wasn't until my children were in middle school that I actually went to live with two different Amish families in two summers because just growing up around them wasn't enough. I had so many questions. I explore a lot of the things I have learned through the years in each of the books as well, just fascinating little tidbits.
Q: You are credited with being the first author to write Amish fiction? Did you dream you would have started such a trend?
A: There are 84 new books coming out in Amish fiction just this year! It's remarkable. I've always felt called to write for kids and I still love writing for kids but I also love doing research. A lot of my readers have referred to my novels as "non-fictional fiction" because there's so much to glean and learn and experience to understand a kind of misunderstood people as well.
Q: The Secret Keeper has an unexpected twist. Without giving away secrets, in your experience how frequently do college educated, worldly women seek to join Amish communities?
A: A handful a year... for the whole country and Ontario Canada from all the church districts. From what I've heard from many sources is the "staying power" is pretty typically only about two weeks to two months. It's a real culture shock.
Q: Amish population growth has more than doubled since 1992 (current estimated population about 282,000). How many are they losing a year?
A: The Amish population is expected to double by the year 2020 through birth rate since they don't proselytize or evangelize. Not many are lost through attrition. Actually they keep between 92 and 94% of their young people depending on the church district. Here's another interesting thing, the stricter the church district, the more likely the young people who do go during their running around years, the rumspringe time, will come back.
Q: Which authors have influenced you the most? Who are your favorites?
A: I still read all the time, mostly memoirs and biographies, and journals. Growing up I read, of course, all the 'Anne' books, by L. M. Montgomery, and the Louisa May Alcott books were really powerful to me. I read a lot of missionary type stories because I grew up in a pastor's home; preacher's daughter. And I loved The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings and probably read it every year. I liked the old classics as well: Dickens, Mark Twain's books, the humorists. I was exposed to a lot of different writing. The Little House on the Prairie books were great back when I was eight and nine years old so I guess I was influenced in a lot of ways.
Q: Like your capable Amish women, do you sew, garden, bake and cook?
A: All of the above. But I don't as much now because I'm full time busy busy writing. I do have an herb garden and I used to sew EVERYTHING that my children and my husband wore. My husband had lined vests for his three-piece suits that matched his tie! It was ridiculous, but... I always have loved to sew and cook and I cook from scratch.
Q: If you could live in any other time or place or century, when and where would that be?
A: Right now. I love living right now.
Q: What's next? Stand-alone books or a new series?
A: There's going to be six books total set in Hickory Hollow, the fifth, The Last Bride is coming out April 1st next year. I just finished that before I came on tour. I've done seven series of continuing sagas, family sagas, where you have to read the books in order, and I'm really enjoying the stand alone, I think a lot of my readers are liking it too because they're busy mothers or career women and they don't have to make a big commitment to a series. They can pick up a book in any order and enjoy it. It's been fun. A real departure for me but I've enjoyed it.
Q: How do you balance research, writing, and marketing?
A: I do two novels a year and a little while ago I was doing a children's book in between. I'm very disciplined. I work six days a week. Sometimes I work 14, 15 hours a day, depending on where I am with my deadline or if I'm on a writing marathon or not. I feel like I'm writing in my head a lot. Whatever is going on up there, after a while, if it simmers long enough then it might be something the public might want to read. I'm writing a lot. It's who I am more than what I do because I've been doing this since I was a little girl.
c/o Perseus Book Group
250 W. 57th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10107
9780762455126, $9.95, 368pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Pound by sweaty pound, Greg Dunsmore's plan is working. Greg is steadily losing weight while gaining the material he needs to make the documentary that will get him into film school and away from the constant jeers of "Dun the Tun." But when Greg captures footage of brutal and bloody hazing by his town's championship-winning lacrosse team, he knows he has evidence that could damage as much as it could save. And if the harm is to himself and his future, is revealing the truth worth the cost?
Critique: "Press Play" is a superbly crafted young adult novel. Author Eric Devine manifests an impressive level of story telling skills with his evident ability craft inherently interesting characters within the context of a deftly woven plot of unexpected developments, twists and turns. A solid entertainment from beginning to end, "Press Play" is especially recommended for school and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Press Play" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).
Boone and Crockett Club's Complete Guide to Hunting Whitetails
Craig Boddington, et al.
Boone and Crockett Club Collection
250 Station Drive, Missoula, MT 59801
9781940860008, $19.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The best-known name in trophy big game hunting, Boone and Crockett, teams up with the world's most knowledgeable deer experts to present the definitive resource for the whitetail hunter in "Boone and Crockett Club's Complete Guide to Hunting Whitetails: Deer Hunting Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Success in the Field". Equally illuminating to both beginning and seasoned hunters, this engagingly written guide is packed with real-world strategies and exclusive data to help hunters beat the odds in today's changing environment of dwindling public land access, evolving deer population dynamics and new hunting technologies. Learn how to pinpoint the ideal places, dates and times to find trophy whitetails - and then identify a record-book buck before pulling the trigger. The guide includes fully updated, illustrated instructions for scoring your own trophy. "Boone and Crockett Club's Complete Guide to Hunting Whitetails" also features proprietary trophy whitetail data collected and analyzed by the Boone and Crockett Club, America's premier wildlife conservation organization.
Critique: Profusely illustrated throughout, "Boone and Crockett Club's Complete Guide to Hunting Whitetails: Deer Hunting Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Success in the Field" is informed, informative, comprehensive, detailed, and holds a wealth of practical information deftly presented to enhance deer hunting experiences for the novice, and will prove to be an enduringly valued reference for even the more experienced deer hunter. Enhanced with a six part Reference Section: B&C Whitetail Records and Distribution; Field Photo Tips; Suggested Reading; Wildlife/Hunting Organizations; About the Authors; and Acknowledgements, "Boone and Crockett Club's Complete Guide to Hunting Whitetails: Deer Hunting Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Success in the Field" is an ideal addition to any personal or community library Hunting/Fishing reference collection. It should be noted that "Boone and Crockett Club's Complete Guide to Hunting Whitetails: Deer Hunting Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Success in the Field" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.49).
The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309314466, $49.95, 122pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited" builds on the 2000 report 'Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers'. That ground-breaking report assessed the postdoctoral experience and provided principles, action points, and recommendations to enhance that experience. Since the publication of the 2000 report, the postdoctoral landscape has changed considerably. The percentage of PhDs who pursue postdoctoral training is growing steadily and spreading from the biomedical and physical sciences to engineering and the social sciences. The average length of time spent in postdoctoral positions seems to be increasing. "The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited" reexamines postdoctoral programs in the United States, focusing on how postdocs are being guided and managed, how institutional practices have changed, and what happens to postdocs after they complete their programs. This study explores important changes that have occurred in postdoctoral practices and the research ecosystem and assesses how well current practices meet the needs of these fledgling scientists and engineers and of the research enterprise.
Critique: A seminal study in compliance with an impressive academic rigor with respect to scholastic research standards, "The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited", after an informative Summary and Introduction, is deftly organized into four sections: The Disconnect Between The Ideal And Reality; Changing Aspects Of The Postdoctoral Experience; The Shifting Career Landscape; Recommendations. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of References and five Appendices, "The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited" is a critically important contribution and especially recommended for university library reference collections.
Sharing The Truth In Love
Discovery House Publishers
3000 Kraft Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512
9781627070744, $13.99, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Christians are called by Christ to serve Him in a multi-faith world. But how can Christians effectively relate to and share the gospel with people of other faiths? "Sharing the Truth in Love: How to Relate to People of Other Faiths" is an outstanding cross-cultural guide to evangelism in the twenty-first century directs Christians to respond sensitively and wisely to the cultures and beliefs of non-Christians of any nation. Christians, with the love of Christ, must oppose deception with the truth of God's Word. This thought-provoking and inspiring book will convince readers of the distinctiveness of the Christian faith and spur them to be effective witnesses for Christ in the world today.
Critique: An extraordinary and informative guide, "Sharing the Truth in Love: How to Relate to People of Other Faiths" by Ajith Fernando is very highly recommended and instructive reading for all Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted that "Sharing the Truth in Love: How to Relate to People of Other Faiths" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
How To Write Successful Letters Of Recommendation
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781601386120, $29.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "How to Write Successful Letters of Recommendation" is a one-stop instructional resource for painting the perfect picture in just one short letter. Here is everything needed in order to write the perfect letter of recommendation that will get a friend, colleague, or student accepted or hired. The most effective letters of recommendation are accurate, succinct, descriptive, and powerful, and include realistic evaluations of performance and capability. With ideas about how to start a reference letter and the topics to include, "How To Write Successful Letters Of Recommendation" is a complete guide to constructing the perfect letter from start to finish. Outlined in ten easy steps, "How To Write Successful Letters Of Recommendation" is filled with tips and tricks for personalizing the letter and making your friend, student, employee, or coworker shine. Included is a companion CD-ROM filled with templates, examples, word banks, and worksheets.
Critique: An impressive and comprehensive 'how to' instruction manual and guide, "How to Write Successful Letters of Recommendation: 10 Easy Steps for Reference Letters that Your Employees, Colleagues, Students & Friends Will Appreciate" is strongly recommended for anyone asked to write a letter of reference and wanting not only do it right, but do it effectively. Of special note is the chapter on 'When (And How) To Say No". ""How to Write Successful Letters of Recommendation" would make an enduringly popular addition to community and academic collections.
The Secret Chamber Of Osiris
Berar & Company
c/o Inner Traditions International, Ltd.
One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767
9781591437697, $18.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Secret Chamber of Osiris: Lost Knowledge of the Sixteen Pyramids", Scott Creighton reveals the true purpose behind the pyramids of Giza and the location of the secret vault of Egyptian treasures hidden on the Giza plateau. Creighton also details how the first 16 pyramids represent the allegorical "dismembered body of Osiris" and the legendary missing part is a secret underground chamber; explains how the pyramids were built as recovery vaults and with the secret chamber contained everything needed to rebuild civilization after the Deluge; and examines the technology used to build the pyramids and "fly the stones into place". After nearly 200 years of the pyramid-as-tomb theory, a growing body of evidence suggests the first 16 pyramids of ancient Egypt were not royal tombs but nearly indestructible recovery vaults designed to revive civilization after an anticipated major catastrophe, the Deluge of Thoth. Creighton examines the prophecy of catastrophe and the ancient Egyptians' massive undertaking to ensure the survival of their civilization. He explains how the pyramids acted as easily located storehouses for seeds, tools, and civilizing knowledge, yet they would have been too visible to house the precious treasures necessary to restore the rich culture of ancient Egypt. For this, the ancients created a secret chamber whose existence was hidden in myth and whose location was encoded in the Giza pyramids. Creighton shows how, collectively, the first 16 pyramids represent the allegorical "dismembered body of Osiris," the Egyptian god of agriculture and rebirth, and, as in the myth of Osiris, one part is missing or hidden--a secret chamber under the sands of the Giza plateau. Creighton reveals how the 3 great pyramids of Giza "point" to the secret location and how they were built with technology akin to modern hot air balloons, used to "fly the stones into place" as cited in Egyptian legends and shown in ancient art. Offering a new understanding of this remarkable civilization, Creighton concludes with a startling revelation: shortly after he revealed the location of the secret chamber of Osiris (a location never before explored) it became the site of a major excavation by the Egyptian government.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, detailed, informative and iconoclastic study, "The Secret Chamber of Osiris: Lost Knowledge of the Sixteen Pyramids" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Metaphysical Studies and Egyptology Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "The Secret Chamber of Osiris: Lost Knowledge of the Sixteen Pyramids" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.41).
The Hired Man
c/o Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
154 West 14th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011
9780802121929, $15.00, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Hired Man" is set in a small Croatian town and its dark wartime secrets, which are unwittingly brought into the light by a family of outsiders. Duro Kolak, a stoic lifelong resident of the Croatian village of Gost, is off on a morning's hunt when he discovers that a British family has taken up residence in a house Duro knows well. He offers his assistance getting their water working again, and soon he is at the house every day, helping get it ready as their summer cottage, and serving as their trusted confidant. But the other residents of Gost are not as pleased to have the interlopers, and as the friendship deepens, the volatile truths about the town's past and the house's former occupants whisper ever louder.
Critique: A compelling and complexly woven novel, "The Hired Man" documents author Aminatta Forna as a major literary talent. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "The Hired Man" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) and as an Audiobook Download ($20.95).
The Search For Hidden Sacred Knowledge
Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 754, Huntsville, AR 72740
9781940265230, $17.50, 350pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Search For Hidden Sacred Knowledge", author Dolores Cannon continues the story begun in two of her previous books, "Keepers of the Garden" and "The Custodians". In those volumes, she explained how the Extraterrestrials developed life on Earth, how they came to be regarded as gods and explored the complicated relationship between humans and ETs. "The Search For Hidden Sacred Knowledge" focuses on the secret knowledge that has been passed from generation to generation after the Extraterrestrials left earth. For centuries, ET wisdom has been protected by the few who belonged to the secret Mystery schools, where a few initiates were chosen to learn and practice the various techniques. The knowledge had to be safeguarded and protected. They knew that it must not die. Down through countless centuries this knowledge was protected and shared only with the chosen few. Wars have been fought and terrible injustices have been committed in attempts to gain access to this knowledge. Those with the knowledge often died rather than let it fall into the wrong hands. Now it is no longer reserved strictly for oracles in temples, hermits in caves, or wise men cloistered in hidden schools. It is returning to our time and is now available for all to learn.
Critique: An impressive work of metaphysical literature, "The Search For Hidden Sacred Knowledge" covers a range of subjects including Isis and the Machine People; brining back ancient healing; color and sound; Orbs of Information; Crystal Skulls; Lemuria, Atlantis, and Pompeii, and the hiding of Jesus' teachings. Iconoclastic, compelling, and inherently fascinating from beginning to end, "The Search For Hidden Sacred Knowledge" is very highly recommended reading and would prove to be an enduringly valued addition to personal, academic, and community library Metaphysical Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "The Search For Hidden Sacred Knowledge" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
Plain View Press
9781891386435 $15.95 (PB) $7.99 (Kindle)
"Hey, ya got the Santa Fe idea. No need to be who you were.
Be who you want to be." - Changing Spaces, Nancy King
Nancy King's novel, Changing Spaces, is about lost and found identity--specifically that of a married woman who is so in love with her husband that she has lost her grip on her authentic self. King tackles 180-degree life flips, divorce, women's friendship and the healing power of New Mexico in this tightly written, fun book.
The story takes off after 60-year old Laura gets a life-changing "anvil" dropped on her head when her longtime husband reveals that he'd like a divorce, right after they have made love. In this way, King skillfully lets us know that (a) older women can still have enjoyable sex with their husbands and (b) men are dogs.
Okay, maybe not dogs. Men here are not portrayed so much as "dogs" as they are "dogged" in their pursuits. Laura's husband has been doggedly pursuing a younger woman, which now results in his desire for divorce. However, after Laura responds by exiting their comfortable lives without notice, her husband doggedly pursues her - without even knowing where she is.
Where Laura "is" determines the trajectory of the plot, which begins to beat like a heart liberated from its rib cage after she runs from Oberlin, Ohio to Santa Fe, New Mexico. As the runaway wife takes root and frees her spirit in the natural beauty of New Mexico, we want her to succeed. But she cannot change simply by changing locations - although without the location, she could not change as deeply as she needs to, and eventually will.
Changing Spaces stands out as a well-written testament to the power of women, friendship and nurturing environments that foster change.
9781479259137 $15.99 (PB) $3.99 (Kindle)
"Her whole person had a fire, a hunger. It never crossed his mind that it was for anything but him."
Reading Jitterbug Lift was like watching a great movie in Smell-A-Vision on a roller coaster while trying to balance a bucket of popcorn on my knees. It had me at page 1.
A riveting page-turner, its themes of forgiveness and solidarity resonate in our 21st Century as ever more lines in the sand are drawn politically, globally, sexually, and racially. These days when someone can lose their life for wearing a "hoodie" or a turban, it's important to remember the Berlin Airlift - when the same pilots who dropped bombs over Berlin volunteered to save Berliners from starving at the hands of the occupying Soviets three years later.
Oliver Flynn (actually 3 authors) has crafted a masterpiece that boldly tackles an aspect of Western Allies' involvement in the Cold War that goes beyond spy vs. spy. Not only is Jitterbug Lift historically accurate, it offers a fun read with delicious writing. Some of my favorite lines include:
"Years of flying mixed with an almost spiritual understanding of what keeps planes in the air moved his hands and eyes."
"It took an hour for the doctor with them to separate Ivanoff's charred back from the remnants of the cockpit seat."
As a Jewish woman who lost most of her family in the Holocaust, I was a tad wary of a story that may be "pro-German." I found that the story is pro-human life. Jewish and otherwise.
And the best part? Women save the day. Feeble, starved, strong women. The storyline runs on contradictions, paradoxes and ironies. Our Kraut-hating American hero, Chance, trades bombs for food cargo as the former bomber pilot takes on missions with the Airlift to rescue his friend whose plane has gone down in enemy territory. The Allies' new enemy (Soviet Union) is their former friend and vice versa.
And there's a mysterious femme fatale who will do anything for a "higher cause" - and I mean anything.
A friend asked if "Jitterbug Lift" is a "bodice ripper." Well, buttons do pop off from time to time, but at its core, this is a Love Story. The love of one man for his best friend; one American for one German; citizens for their country; parents for children; the religious for their religion; prisoners for freedom; and the most moving of all:
The love of humans for humanity.
I Am NOT Selling My Tooth
Kelli Nielsen, author
Kelly Hawkins, illustrator
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Kelli and Kelly Books
9781503366077, $9.97 PB, 40 pages
Review originally published:
What is there to say about children's "baby teeth" that has not already been said? On the face of it, the traditional equation is simple: 1 lost baby tooth = $ from a Tooth Fairy. Kelli Nielsen's "I Am NOT Selling My Tooth" puts a charming spin on this scenario with heartfelt warmth and humor by taking the position that children are capable of making their own decisions about how to respond to the body changes that are part of growing older. It is a gentle examination of a rite of passage that adults, as well as children, can relate to and appreciate. The story takes off when the rebellious Austin declares, "I'm keeping my teeth small just like me." He doesn't see why his teeth just can't grow bigger as he grows bigger. The fact that Austin shares the same name as the author's son, whom she thanks in the book's Dedication along with her other son Alec, grounds the story in reality and gives it a very personal tone. Enhanced by Kelly Hawkin's fun illustrations that evoke a child's abstract perception of space, color and line, "I Am NOT Selling My Tooth" never talks down to children, but is right there with the child's need to have some autonomy in life choices, no matter how "small" they are. It takes readers on a tour of the tooth-loss phenomenon that includes sharks, baseball injuries and even an octopus that receives something other than money for its lost tooth. I would recommend this book for any parent with a child about to lose a tooth or who has lost a tooth, and as an excellent educational aid for dentists. It might even be helpful for therapists and life coaches who wish to discuss life changes and the various options available for responding and adjusting to them - no matter how old we are.
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Gold Fever: Part 2
2747 Regent Street, Berkeley, CA 94705
9781587903007, $18.95, 346pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: San Francisco has been torched twice in the space of six weeks. Merchants and residents are angry and organized in a Committee of Vigilance to arrest, try and hang the arsonists and all the other cutthroats, villains and armed criminals that make the city a dangerous, lawless den of inequity in 1851 and 1852. The Governor, his cronies, and the corrupt city and county officials are determined to rein in the Committee of Vigilance even if it means civil war. Pierre and Manon Dubois must negotiate their way carefully through the minefield of warring factions, treacherous streets, and from competition of the boatloads of new immigrants, Jezebels and fortune hunters arriving weekly. The city is still a ruthless man's world where Yankee men control commerce, can bribe juries and customs officials, and deport foreign immigrants at will. Can Manon realize her dream to own and run a high-end French restaurant employing women chefs in competition with the established male-owned and staffed restaurants? Can Pierre establish a viable notary and private detective agency in this uncertain environment? Can Manon's women partners, associates and employees prevail in their careers in the still lawless town with over 2,000 saloons, innumerable gambling palaces and dens, fancy bordellos and sex-slave cribs?
Critique: "Gold Fever Part Two: San Francisco 1851-1852" continues the story of Pierre and Manon Dubois that began in Ken Salter's first novel, "Gold Fever: San Francisco 1851" (9781587902406, $18.95, 322pp.). Once again author Ken Salter demonstrates a complete mastery of his storytelling skills at writing an historical work of fiction that is solidly enhanced with meticulous attention to background details. The result is pure entertainment from first page to last. Very highly recommended reading.
The Reconnected Leader
Kogan Page USA
1518 Walnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9780749472320, $37.95, 312pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Responsible business is something society has come to expect, and organizations such as the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative and the World Economic Forum are constantly working to promote accountability in business. "The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations" explores management's failure to adapt to these expectations and explains what managers can do to establish a better connection between their organization and its stakeholders. HR and Leadership expert Norman Pickavance sets out an eight-step process for more ethical and interconnected management practices. He emphasizes creating a shared sense of purpose, responsibility, enterprise, and value. "The Reconnected Leader" covers key topics such as using mindfulness to become a better decision maker, accountability in decision making, corporate governance, and establishing a culture that encourages innovation and community. With practical exercises and tools, "The Reconnected Leader" showcases what managers can do on an individual level to ensure their company has a positive impact on its employees, customers, environment, and society.
Critique: Expertly written and organized, "The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations" is a superbly presented instruction manual and guide that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Enhanced with the inclusion of figures, tables, an eight page listing of References, and a twenty-seven page Index, "The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations" is an invaluable addition to the personal reading lists of corporate executives, and a seminal contribution to professional, academic, and community library business management reference collections. It should also be noted that ""The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.55).
Die Gestalten Verlag GmbH & Co. KG
Mariannenstr. 9-10, 10999 Berlin, Germany
9783899555523, $39.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Original Man: The Tautz Compendium of Less Ordinary Gentlemen" showcases 80 original men who will inspire readers to lead a less ordinary life. The men range from the famous such as Andy Warhol, Freddie Mercury, and Yves Saint-Laurent to the relatively unknown. What these 80 men represent is an incredibly diverse and original lives. From infamous hell-raisers such as Iggy Pop, to indomitable explorers like Ernest Shackleton, to visionaries such as Federico Fellini, and even less mainstream personalities such as Quentin Crisp or Takeshi Kitano, these biographies are as inherently fascinating.
Critique: Impressively illustrated throughout with period black-and-white photography, "Original Man: The Tautz Compendium of Less Ordinary Gentlemen" is informed and informative with its skillfully written and presented biographical commentaries. The 80 men showcased are deftly organized into four major groupings: Artist, Hero, Libertine, and Stylist. Enhanced with the inclusion of a Preface; A Note from the Editor; and a useful Index, "Original Man: The Tautz Compendium of Less Ordinary Gentlemen" is a seminal work that is strongly recommended, especially for community and academic library biography collections.
FAILE: Works on Wood: Process, Paintings and Sculpture
Die Gestalten Verlag GmbH & Co. KG
Mariannenstr. 9-10, 10999 Berlin, Germany
9783899555479, $65.00, 272pp, www.amazon.colm
Synopsis: Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller have worked in a wide range of materials and styles since the inception of FAILE in 1999. They are best known for their prints, paintings, and mixed-media installations, which have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. Inspired by American folk art and the visual tapestry of city walls, their work is characterized by a vibrant weaving of abstraction, mass culture, and commercial typography. "FAILE: Works on Wood: Process, Paintings and Sculpture" is a new collection of essays and rich color photographs that showcases FAILE s exploration of wood in their practice. It presents a broad swath of their projects from the past decade, from early work using salvaged material to more recent commissions, such as their towering installation at the New York City Ballet. "FAILE: Works on Wood: Process, Paintings and Sculpture" features both critical writing and reflections by the artists on now iconic facets of their work in and out of the studio, including their interactive Puzzle Boxes, carved Prayer Wheels, and bold, large-scale painting.
Critique: Flawless reproductions of FAILE art are enhanced with informed and informative commentary. The result is an outstanding and highly recommended addition to personal, academic, and community library collections. Indeed, "FAILE: Works on Wood: Process, Paintings and Sculpture" would make a superb choice for any public or university memorial fund acquisition selection.
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444820300, $20.00, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Craig Fargo was barely fifteen when he killed his first man. By doing so he saved his father's life - but only for a few more minutes. And in those minutes he was committed to a quest that would take him many brutal years to complete. That first dead man has had a lot of company, as Fargo keeps his fists ready and his guns blazing. But when he reaches the end of the trail and the gunsmoke clears, his legacy is not what he expects...
Critique: Replete with unexpected plot twists and turns, "Fargo's Legacy" is a terrifically entertaining read from beginning to end. Clearly, author Tyler Hatch has a complete mastery of the western action/adventure genre, "Fargo's Legacy" is enthusiastically recommended for western fans and would make an enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library large print fiction collections.
The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin
Jonathan L. Ferrara
336 Malin RD. Newtown Square, PA 19073
9781940076195, 230 pages, $5.95 E-Book, $15.95 paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Urban Fantasy
The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin is book 1 in Jonathan L. Ferrara's YA urban fantasy series. I must say this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can't wait to read the sequel.
After his parents are killed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Blackwell is put under the protection of the Vatican and sent to a boarding school surrounded by a deep forest: St. Christopher's Academy, complete with iron gates, gargoyle statues, and gateposts that leer at him. As his life is in danger, this is the only place where he can be kept safe. One night he ventures into the woods and a serpent tricks him into eating the forbidden fruit, with disastrous consequences - for the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins have been unleashed, and now Nicholas must go into the City of Demons and defeat the Princes of Hell, and in the process discover his family secret, one that could change the entire world... A daunting task for a teen, even if he happens to be the school's cockiest leader of mischief.
I loved the book. Nicholas is a charming protagonist, cleaver, arrogant, yet brave and selfless at times. Ferrara's world, inspired by Biblical tales, of course, is elaborate and imaginative. I especially loved his focus on the Seven Deadly Sins - what they are, where they came from, etc. Angels and demons are intertwined with fantasy elements, and the whole concept of good and evil is explored.
There's romance, action, adventure, and mystery. It is also a bit dark at times, which I enjoyed. Ferrara is a talented writer, his prose smooth and his dialogue witty. The pace was excellent and the story kept moving forward with increasing tension until the very satisfying ending that left me hungry for book 2. Recommended!
2711 Centerville Rd., Wilmington, DE 19808
9781940076171, 330 pages, $16.95
Genre: Science Fiction
Nine Planets by Greg Byrne is the first book I've read that combines science fiction and the Santa Claus myth. Original idea!
We first meet our protagonist, Corporal Peter Blackwell, when he wakes up from a coma with a head injury at a medical facility of North American Space and Air Defence. They tell him that he's a "dungeon watcher" for the NASAD and that he's suffered an accident - one that has left him with amnesia.
Blackwell finds himself having weird memories of smells and sounds, in a world where suicide - the Black Despair - is a common occurrence, and also learns that bound up with his identity is a vital secret that must remain concealed because the future of millions of lives is at stake. The secret is linked to a comet that's approaching earth, and there are those who will stop at nothing to extract his secret, then kill him.
Nine Planets is a very real, human story with multiple layers. It is a story about hope, a theme explored in a setting where suicide is completely acceptable. Peter Blackwell is a sympathetic protagonist. Brave, determined, and loyal, he's surrounded by an interesting array of secondary characters.
Byrne is a talented storyteller who pays special attention to language and possesses a writing style at times simple and straightforward, at others lyrical. The technical and science aspects are very well done as well. Part mystery, part thriller, Nine Planets is a science fiction novel quite different from others on the market. If you love SF novels and thrillers, I recommend you give this one a try.
The Case of the Cursed Dodo
The Endangered Files Book 1
Jake G. Panda
Woolly Family Studios
P.O. Box 400713, Cambridge, MA 02140
9780990939115, $8.99, 180 pages, www.amazon.com
Prepare yourself for an unusual adventure. Reading "The Case of the Cursed Dodo" is a lot like reading a screenplay, complete with fade, dissolves, cutaways, insert shots, special effects, and more. The author refers to it as "endangered'd'scope." And the story is a slice of "jungle noir."
It all began when Jake G. Panda (the author) was working at Wildlife's Last Resort as the hotel detective. He received a distress call from his friend and co-worker, The Professor who is a hispid hare that collects endangered artifacts for the hotel's collection. The Professor is in trouble and it has something to do with a mysterious carving of a jade dodo bird. Along the way readers meet a cast brimming with wacky characters, all of whom are endangered. Ernie, the Asian elephant drives a bicycle rickshaw. There's Karl the Norwegian rat and his Rat Pack. Lou is a punch-drunk Tibetan snowcock. Stan is the wise-cracking pygmy goat. Bedouin Joe is a Bimini boa that runs a curio shop. And there's Knuckles the crafty croc. But no jungle noir would be complete without an old flame to rattle our hard-boiled detective. Cue the lounge singer, Daisy Condor. She's a flighty sort of bird who makes her own music. They all join in a wild goose chase -- except there's no goose -- only a jade dodo bird that hides an ancient secret.
Book 1 introduces readers to the world of endangered species with a slapstick comedy rolled into a mysterious puzzle. With plenty of jokes, gags, and stunts, "The Case of the Cursed Dodo" will keep you laughing out loud.
The Professional Freelancer
Amazon Digital Services
PO Box 81207, Seattle, WA 98108
B00KGK9IB6, $0.99, 114 pages, www.amazon.com
Don't let the title fool you. "The Professional Freelancer" is not guide for freelance writers. At the outset, author Rory Scherer warns that this book "was not written in a traditional format." It was written in first person and the style is sort of stream of consciousness with dialogue.
"The Professional Freelancer" is a novella about a guy who hates his job at a software company and then to no one's surprise loses it when the FBI shows up and shuts the place down. From there a series of unfortunate incidents like losing his girlfriend and his apartment send him on a further downward spiral. The ne'er-do-well narrator takes on one freelance job after another and each one drags him deeper into an underworld of shady characters and mobsters. Readers never do learn the guy's name.
Billed as a humorous ebook, the comedy is a mixture of wry jokes and similes that are often so out in left field they detract from the story. Think Sponge Bob meets Adam Sandler. Some readers will find it hilarious while others will think it's tedious. "The Professional Freelancer" is an acquired taste.
Aoleon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga
Part 1 -- First Contact
9780979128509, $4.99, 118 pages
Gilbert is a young stargazer who lives on a farm in Nebraska where there's plenty of sky and wheat fields containing mysterious crop circles. While gazing through his telescope one night Gilbert spies a baby blue flying saucer careening toward Earth. To his amazement the spaceship flies over his farmhouse. Gilbert bolts out into the night and chases the ship into his neighbor's field. There he stumbles on a fresh crop circle. But that's not all. He trips over a big-eyed alien girl with turquoise skin whose name is Aoleon. Pursued by Farmer Johnson and his shotgun, a terrified Gilbert escapes on board Aoleon's spacecraft powered by a fusion core reactor. Once airborne their ship is pursued by two Air Force F-22 Raptors. Gilbert experiences the thrill ride of his life which ultimately lands him on Mars where he discovers his destiny is linked to Aoleon.
In the first book in this "science fiction and fantasy saga," LeVasseur combines exciting action with vivid illustrations to pique readers' interest in Aoleon, the plucky Martian girl, and Gilbert, the curious farm boy, who share a mission to save their planets. LeVasseur's dazzling galactic scenes look like still frames from a Pixar movie. Middle grade readers will be easily drawn into this new cosmic adventure series. Part 2 is due out in February 2015.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Vigilante Publishing Group LLC.
P.O. Box 668, Scottsdale, AZ 85252-0668
9780692206577, $11.95, www.amazon.com
A poignant tale that takes us on roads of twist and turns that keep us saying wow....
Clothesline Blues by B. Berry is a poignant tale that brings in some of the many atrocities perpetrated against people because of the color of their skin. Ms. Berry penned a novel that takes the readers on many journeys with the main ones being those of Hilda and her best friend Pearl.
Hilda is saddled with a man she once loved and she determined to get him away from but has to figure out how. Pearl is struggling to gain funds to secure a future for her and her daughter. The paths Hilda and Pearl travel takes us on roads of twist and turns that keep us saying wow. This is going on during the very turbulent times of black people fighting to put an end to being disregarded, disrespected, treated like less than and beaten/killed.
This novel allows us to feel what some went through and as they fought for change. We also see lies, secrets, acts of violence and revenge come to the forefront to possibly ruin lives.
I give this novel 4 stars.
One Safe Place: A Novel
Alvin L.A. Horn
PO Box 6505, Largo, MD 20792
9781593095505, $15.00, www.amazon.com
These tales of righted wrongs are definitely something to experience.
Once again, Alvin L.A. Horn has created an eclectic mixture of characters and drama in One Safe Place, which is straight out of Washington state and centers around crime, love, family, friends, foes, trust, righting wrongs and protecting. As we embark on these journeys, we collide with thunderous dilemmas and willful deeds that are crime laden.
A former secret service agent Psalms Black has lived his life helping others that were in need. He goes about life helping people come to that one safe place. He exact revenge for them and issues lessons to the offenders. Pair him with the former Secretary of State of the United States, Gabrielle Brandywine and we see the lives of a very powerful couple.
While Psalms Black and his people use a multitude of abilities and resources to complete missions bestowed upon them, they grow closer and closer and solidify their bonds and loyalties. These tales of righted wrongs are definitely something to experience.
I give this novel 4 stars.
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00QU3MMZM, $0.99 (Kindle), 48 Pages, www.amazon.com
It's Christmas time, and the staff at the Lost and Found Investigation Service are struggling to find their holiday spirit.
John Palmer is confused at why suddenly his girlfriend Shannon is pulling away from him. They have been together for the past year, but lately something is creating a wedge between them. He fears losing her, but is reluctant to move towards putting any type of permanence to their relationship.
When Chad agrees to be Santa he gets an unexpected Santa request from Mercy. This year, she orders up a big present for Santa, to have Chad become her father. Will he answer the little girls Christmas wish?
Zeke finds that he can't live his life without Ember in it. He is amazed each time he looks into her eyes and sees the love she radiates only for him. She has always been able to look past his scars and show him that his injuries do not prevent her from loving him. He is determined to make this Christmas one that she will always remember.
Duncan Wilde is proud of the men he employs at the Lost and Found Investigation Service. Each one of them has grown to be his extended family. With the holiday season upon them, he finds the group surprises him with an unexpected Christmas gift, one that is assured to put him in the right holiday mood.
EMBATTLED CHRISTMAS is the perfect holiday gift. For those fans who find themselves in love with the characters from the Lost and Found Investigation Service there is no way you will be able to resist purchasing and reading this book. This book is the perfect way to celebrate the holidays with such delightful characters you have grown to love.
The Governess and the Beast (Blind Cupid Series Book 2)
Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
PO Box 407, Klawock, AK 99925
B00CR3YTQY, $2.99 (Kindle), www.amazon.com
Hortense Jennings is hoping to build a new life for herself by accepting a governess position with Baron Simon Wolstenholme. Her dark past is one that she hopes will never come to light again.
Baron Simon Wolstenholme is horribly scarred by a war injury. He hides himself away in his home to avoid the stares to his ravaged face. With his isolation, he finds that he misses the companionship he lost when he decided to distance himself from society. He devises a plan to hire a governess.
When Hortense arrives at the manor, she is introduced to the Baron. When he reveals his scars, she does not let them put her off for in his eyes she finds a man in search of someone to share his life with. She is shocked when she learns he knows of her sultry past, for it was one of the things that intrigued him enough to hire her.
Hortense refuses to allow any man to have control of her life and future. When Simon strikes a bargain to offer her a high sum of money, and excellent references in exchange for one night of passion she reluctantly agrees.
That night turns into one that she knows she will never forget. For the beast's gentle touch awakens feelings she never knew she possessed. When day light comes will she be able to walk away from the first feelings of love she has ever encountered?
THE GOVERNESS AND THE BEAST is an exceptional historical romance. The beauty of love and acceptance is so heartwarming throughout the pages. Both of these beloved characters have experienced the worst that life has to offer, it is only fitting that they find the love and acceptance in each other arms.
Other Books in the BLIND CUPID SERIES include:
Book 1 The Blind Cupid
Book 3 The Copper and the Madam
Tempting the Pirate (Entangled Scandalous) (Love on the High Seas)
Entangled Publishing, LLC
9781507526484, $15.99, 234 Pages, www.amazon.com
Charity Goswick refuses to be wed to a man she finds distasteful. She decides to take her own future into own her hands and runs away. She finds herself hidden away on a ship. What she doesn't realize is that the ship she planned her escape on is a pirate's ship.
ames Lamont's brother is missing and he knows it is up to him to locate him. His search leads him to a pirate's ship. He manages to gain employment on the vessel. He hopes that he will be able to find out clues that will lead him to his brother. What he didn't anticipate is finding a stowaway on board. When he finds Charity, he knows he is her best bet for survival on board.
Together the two will travel the high seas. Charity refuses to listen to James reason that she must stay hidden in his cabin. She makes it a game to try and escape, each time her plans are hampered by James's interference.
When danger threatens them both, will they both be strong enough to survive? Can Charity find trust in James long enough to allow him to figure out the best plan needed to escape the harsh conditions of the sea?
TEMPTING THE PIRATE is a wonderful high seas adventure. Tamara Hughes has done an outstanding job in her creation of this swashbuckling romance. Her writing skill is the perfect addition to the historical gene romance category. I look forward to seeing more of her work in future books to be published.
Lily in Chains (1Night Stand)
B00SIH3SHE, $2.99 (Kindle), www.amazon.com
Two years ago, Barry felt that he had found the perfect sub in Lily. He was convinced she was the "one" that he offered to take their BDSM relationship to a new higher level. Barry's offer frightened Lily, when her mother became sick she ran away to care for her.
An unknown beneficiary seeks out Barry through a lawyer. The unknown person wants to fund Barry to start a BDSM Carnivore Club in Las Vegas. Barry knows that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and makes the design to resigns from his job in the police force and start a new life in Las Vegas.
Lily never forgot what she and Barry shared. With the death of her mother, she uses her money to set up a 1Night Stand with Madame Eve. She hopes the encounter with the nameless Dom will give her the courage she needs to return to Barry's arms.
What Lily didn't anticipate is the Dom Madam Eve sets her up with is none other than Barry. Will their reunion be one with explosive results? Or will Barry reject her coming back into her life?
LILY IN CHAINS is an exceptional BDSM romance. Through Kate Richards's talented pen, she is able to provide one sizzling romance. Fans of BDSM will not be able to resist Lily and Barry as their reunion singes the pages.
21 Days in Maui: How I Gave Myself Permission To Be Free
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781503352537, $14.95 (PB), $4.99 (Kindle), 201 Pages, www.amazon.com
After separating from her husband three months ago, one woman takes a courageous leap of faith to leave everything that is familiar to her and set out on a three week adventure of self-discovery in Maui. There she meets a variety of people and participates in various activities that enrich her life. Each one of these events allowed her to see how she can incorporate them in her own lifestyle and be able to have a more fulfilling existence.
21 DAYS IN MAUI - HOW I GAVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO BE FREE allows the reader to travel with the author through her sabbatical journey of revelation to find her true self. Through her descriptive words each scene is beautifully orchestrated. A wealth of emotions is also conveyed in this book. It allows an individual to stop, reflect, and compare it to their own life situation.
The author has done a superb job in bringing to light that it is fully acceptable to break out of your daily routine and see that you have the power to turn your dreams into a reality. After I finished this book, there were several personal situations that were brought to light that showed me it was past time that I take charge of my own future and make the needed changes to live a more fulfilling life. I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves struck in life's endless cycle of never ending redundancy.
The Prince of Risks
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307946577, $9.99, 548 pages, www.amazon.com
The Prince of Risk proves that some people seems to live charmed lives being born into good-looks, brains, and money. However appearances can be deceiving. Some people enjoy and thrive on taking huge risks in life, walking a tight-rope between success and bankruptcy.
Robert "Bobby" Astor is a self-made man. Even though not earning a college degree, throughout the years he has instinctively known when to buy and sell on the stock market earning a reputable and successful career as a hedge fund manager. He has paid the price of success by realizing that his career has essentially become his family. Since juggling two families is difficult, his wife divorced him taking his daughter with her.
Bobby's father is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. He discovers a major problem and realizes the need to contact the Secretary of the Treasury, Martin Gelman and Charles Hughes, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. The three realize that this problem is overwhelming and immediately they depart to consult with the President. This problem is so large that they realize that it is imperative that they awaken the White House in the middle of the night. However, they never arrive.
In their armored Chevrolet Suburban the vehicle quickly maneuvers onto the street and has passed security at the gates of the White House. Once on the property of the White House, it appears that their driver plans to crash the vehicle into the building. Those inside the vehicle quickly realize that the driver is not controlling the car but someone else is driving the vehicle as a remote-controlled-car. How could this happen? The Secret Service has no choice but to defend the White House grounds and open fire on the vehicle, exploding the car and killing all those inside.
Bobby was estranged from his father. They seldom spoke. His father in his last moments of life, sent Bobby a text, "Palantir". Bobby had no idea what it was or what it meant. He did realize that this obviously was huge, whatever it was. Although he wanted to devote time to research Palantir, his own company was having a financial meltdown and on the verge of bankruptcy.
The Prince of Risk is a page-turning action-filled novel with many life-or-death situations galloping the financial district of Wall Street and the U.S. Economy seeming to walk a tightrope between life and death.
From the Asian triads which began as secret societies founded in the last century to help support and protect communities from the tyrannies and injustices of their governments. Frequently they could provide justice without dealing with bureaucracy. In many instances, these groups also allowed and made certain that local businessmen had financing, helped ensure that police or petty government officials did not interfere with their activities, and engaged in other, less proper businesses, such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and extortion. In the end, a triad was a business, and like all businesses, it was required to earn a profit. To many, the triad was a blessing not just a mafia-like organization.
So how could the triads in Asia cause a problem large enough to murder the three most influential financial minds in America?
This is the story of Bobby as he attempts to save his own company, his family and his country. Will he risk everything to save life as he knows it?
Christopher Reich is the author of many action-adventure thrillers novels and short stories. He currently resides in San Diego, California.
The Prince of Risk is a thrill to read about the financial world where everyone is one step away from immense gains and death.
Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey
Made Global Publishing
9788493746476, $16.00 (PB), 306 pages, www.amazon.com
How many illegitimate children have been born who had royal fathers? Kings who misused their wealth, power, and influence to impregnate a woman is not unusual even in present times. Surprisingly many have been known throughout history and many were acknowledged or accepted by their royal cousins and step-families.
Catherine Carey believed her parents were Mary Boleyn and William Carey. Being that her family had fled to Calais when trouble began with her aunt, Anne Boleyn, she was not aware of her probable lineage. Mary had been a mistress to King Henry VIII before he had a relationship with her sister while married to William. When Catherine was born, most people realized that Henry was her father being that both shared the same shade of red hair. She did not know of her true lineage until she was summoned to court.
Now that Henry was marrying Anne of Cleves, Catherine was invited to return to court to serve the new queen. How would the young woman who was a niece to Anne Boleyn fit into this new court where intrigue and gossip reigned?
Catherine Carey served many queens during her life at court and survived through the reign of others from Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Katherine Parr, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Queen Mary and into the reign of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Cor Rotto is a possible and likely tale of what could have happened between the documented historical events. Being that with some of these rulers, not being at court or even out of the country was much safer.
Cor Rotto in Latin means "heart-broken". Obviously much of story of this novel is romantic focusing on Catherine's marriage and relationship with her husband. Even though there were some "heartbreaks" in her life, Catherine led a privileged life of wealth with a stable and loyal marriage complete with numerous children.
Historical fiction relies on documented events and creates a fiction logically filling in the undocumented sequences. The author, Adrienne Dillard chose to write Catherine's story as a historical romantic novel.
Cor Rotto is an intriguing, fast-paced story of a time period in England that resulted in major changes for the country and how many who survived of the time actually were forced to live.
Kittens Can Kill: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
MM Book Publicity
9781464203602, $14.95 (PB), 294 pages, www.amazon.com
In the Berkshires, life is relaxing. This a not a high-crime area and murder is usually non-existent. So when an elderly and retired attorney passes away, a heart-attack would be the logical reason for his death. When poison is suspected though, who could or would poison him? Was it an accident? Could a new kitten have accidentally dropped something in his tea that could kill him? What do you do with a murdering kitten?
When asked to check on a new kitten, the last thing you expect to find at the residence is a dead body. Prudence Marlowe had been knocking on the door for over twenty minutes when she finally decided to enter the house. Imagine her surprise to find the body of an older man and a kitten batting around what appeared to be a button from the dead man's sweater vest.
It would have been easy to just pick up the kitten and to back out the door but it would be leaving a crime scene. The right thing is seldom the easiest. Pru chooses the correct path and informs the local law enforcement, Jim Creighton who just happens to have a special relationship with her.
What Jim suspects but does not know is that Pru has a special ability. She understands the language of dog, cats, birds, etc...she can talk with the animals. Now only if these creatures would answer her questions and speak in complete sentences. However humans are not usually privileged to the secrets the animals confide in her.
Added to that, Jim has used the "love" word with Pru. She definitely does not want him to believe that she is mentally unstable. She prefers to describe herself as an animal behaviorist.
So how did the old man die? What was the cause of his death? What did the kitten do? What did the kitten witness?
It turns out that the deceased is a retired attorney, David Canaday who has three surviving adult daughters. Sibling rivalry still continues into their single adult lives and include fighting over her father's will and of course, the kitten.
Clea Simon is a former journalist who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She is the author of three non-fiction books as well as three separate mystery series featuring the characters Pru Marlowe, Dulcie Schwarta, and Theda Krakow.
Kittens Can Kill is a fun cozy novel which is a very quick read. The story is well-organized with excellent character development as the possible culprits are slowly revealed. I would recommend one of the earlier books in the Pru series if you are not acquainted with the series.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425278277, $9.99, 386 pages, www.amazon.com
Dog people are a breed unto themselves. Yes, it is a pun but it is true. They understand how a dog can be trusted to be a person's best friend, whether they are a man or a woman. Dogs will listen and never tell your secrets. As for loyalty, once a dog bonds with you, you have a friend for life. These creatures whose name spelled backwards is God don't judge you, don't criticize you, but love you for just being yourself.
While in the line of duty with the LAPD, Scott James was wounded and his partner died. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time but his permanently changed their lives. For Scott, his partner, Stephanie is dead and he was critically wounded. Unfortunately the physical wounds heal faster than the emotional ones.
Scott was expected to just take a medical disability, but that is not Scott. He endured pain for months during physical therapy with his own expectations of being an active member of the LA Police Department. He does realize that things need to be different for him now. He chose to take the training to become a K-9 officer and his new partner will be a dog. What is admirable is Scott's determination! What is bizarre is that he has never owned a dog and is not a dog person! Why would a person who is not a dog lover want to be in the K-9 unit?
Scott is assigned an excellent dog but he is intrigued by another dog who served in the military in Afghanistan. The handler died and the dog was severely wounded and also has PTSD. Scott doesn't want the dog he is assigned, he wants this dog who was wounded in many ways like him. Scott wants this dog and is given a two-week test period.
The odds are definitely against these two being successful individually. Can they become a successful team? Can a person and a dog who both suffer from PTSD become partners?
Even though it was investigated, no one was ever brought to justice for Stephanie's death. In fact, the case had absolutely no leads after nine months of inquiry. What did the investigators miss?
The author, Robert Crais has written numerous novels is was the 2006 recipient of the Ross MacDonald Literary Award.
Suspect is a packed-filled adventure thriller for dog-lovers. The characters are well-developed into a logical mystery enabling Scott to discover the path for disclosure of that horrible night. The setting descriptions are easy to visualize with realistic action throughout the story creating a page-turner that makes it difficult to put the book down.
Death in the Time of Ice
A People of the Wind Mystery Book 1
Untreed Reads Publishing
9781611873832, $13.99 (PB), $4.99 (Kindle), 221 pages, www.amazon.com
"There has always been the wind. Since our planet began to turn, there has always been the wind. This ball of dirt and fire and water started to spin. The air stirred. And Earth's time began. But the beginnings of the wind are lost in the mists of time. The wind blew...Before Man.
More than thirty-thousand years ago, North America was nearing the time of the Ice Age forcing tribes of people to move into areas where there was abundant food needed for their survival. Although we don't know everything about life thirty-thousand years ago, it is believed that the Neanderthals possibly lived at the same time of the Cro-Magnons and other early forms of mankind. Some of these likely made it to the continent of North America.
Death in the Time of Ice is a fictional story based on actual research from roughly thirty-thousand years ago when varying forms of humanoids co-existed in possibly North America. What was their day like? How did they survive? How did they communicate? What did they value?
Enga Dancing Flower and her twin sister, Ung Strong Arm were aware that for their tribe, change was going to happen very soon. Hama, the Most High Female was talking of the approaching cold winter months and the migrating herds that have moved out of their area. The tribe did not have enough food to survive and would either have to move to the food supply or starve to death as had other nearby tribes.
Being this was a Neanderthal tribe, it is believed by some that these people might not have spoken but communicated by a form of telepathy with visual images. Both Enga Dancing Flower and Ung Strong Arm had been adopted by the tribe years ago as the Neanderthals were believed to be accepting of others and were capable of this non-verbal communication.
When Hama is murdered, the tribe wants to go various directions. Besides the obvious of selecting a new leader, the impending change caused multiple doubts and problems. Some are focused on the immediate need of food, others on moving, some on a new leader, and a few on discovering Hama's killer.
Death in the Time of Ice is an adventure into the Neanderthal world of more than thirty thousand years ago. At the beginning of each chapter is a non-fiction belief about this time period with many of these "facts" woven into the story.
In 2010, Kaye George was nominated for the Agatha Best Short Story Award with her short story collection entitled A Patchwork of Stories.
In much the same style as Jean M. Auel and Michael and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, Kaye George has written a shorter but significant fictional account of this Neanderthal mystery.
Death in the Time of Ice is a thrilling adventure into the far past.
Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis
Carole P. Roman
9781496138705, $9.99, 44 pages, www.amazon.com
Captain No Beard is an imaginative young boy who obviously does not have a beard yet but does have the pirate dreams of adventure in exploring the world. Hallie and Cayla accompanies the Captain on his journey as their bed miraculously becomes a pirate ship, The Flying Dragon along with Mongo, the stuffed monkey, Fribbet the frog, Linus the stuffed lion and naturally Polly the parrot. Stuffed animals become willing crew members swabbing decks and keeping a ship "shipshape".
On this particular adventure the crew of The Flying Dragon has to deal with the chilling weather of the arctic with snowflakes and icebergs.
Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis has beautiful watercolor illustrations on each page perfectly matching the pictures with the text for the imaginations of the young crew. This makes this book ideal for those children under the age of eight.
Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis excels with vocabulary experiences for young children in the latest installment of the Captain No Beard series. Bringing in the words aurora borealis, icebergs, arctic, horizon as well as Polaris as it relates to other stars also extends easily into a science lesson.
The pirate terminology is fun and appropriate for children to understand with phrases such as "Shiver me timbers" and "Aye" being used.
Added to these vocabulary are other words which are age appropriate but at the same time enrichment without losing the meaning and relevance of the story.
Most importantly is the moral lesson about taking or borrowing things and what is stealing. This seems ironic in an imaginary tale with pirates, but the life lesson is refreshing in this imaginative tale.
Carole P. Roman is a former teacher who is now an author and businesswoman while she resides on Long Island.
The previous books in the Captain No Beard series have won numerous awards and recognition and most recently the Children's Indy Best- The Pinnacle Award of 2013 and the Readers Views Kids Award- Best Children's Book of the Year.
Have you wondered what is a good book to give young children that the entire family will enjoy? You can't go wrong with Carole P. Roman's Captain No Beard series. All of these books are fun to read for kids of all ages.
A Child's Introduction to Culture Around the World
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Independent Publishing Forum
If You Were Me and Lived in Greece
9781497526181, $9.99, 30pp, www.amazon.com
If You Were Me and Lived in Peru
9781499640694, $9.99, 30pp, www.amazon.com
If You Were Me and Lived in Hungary
9781500483722, $9.99, 30pp, www.amazon.com
If You Were Me and Lived in Scotland
9781500531331, $9.99, 30pp, www.amazon.com
Today's media frequently reports about the ignorance of America's children, especially in terms of geography. Carole P. Roman recognized this problem. As a former teacher with years of experience, she saw a solution. She has created a series of books with matching text and illustrations to assist everyone to become more aware of the world, literally giving her readers a global education. She has developed short picture books each focusing on a single country. Each book briefly highlights the geography, culture, food and language in an engaging format for the very young and for readers of all ages. Obviously through her books she is not complaining but taking a step towards solving the problem by both educating and entertaining simultaneously.
Each book begins with the country outlined and then continues to show the placement of the country with the rest of the world. A quick overview of common children's name for each is highlighted as well as the usual terms for mother and father. Another page in each book focuses on the money and common things purchased. There are even pages discussing the food along with descriptions and pronunciations encompassing the local cultures of foods native to the area as well as drinks while showing what a meal looks like and how they actually eat.
Depending on the particular country, some of these books discuss particular cities which are well known such as Athens in Greece being the birthplace of democracy.
The target audience for these books are young children from the age of four to eight. In each the games the children play and the schools are presented in a way that places the reader inside the book with the pictured characters.
What is outstanding in these short informative books is how well the pictures perfectly match the text and give a clear visual picture of the family relationships. While showing some of the common culture in each country through the architecture, the local markets, the tourist sites as well as the value in the uniqueness of each.
Every book also discusses the important celebrations in each country.
The text is simplistic with the illustration beautifully showing the clothing and the activity of each country.
Carole P. Roman's books are wonderful educational tools that make learning about other places in the world exciting and fun for everyone.
The Pagan Lord
Harper Collins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061969706, $27.99 (HC), 299 pages, www.amazon.com
England had numerous battles in their early years after the fall of the Roman Empire to determine the dream of ruling the entire island. Between the ever-invading Vikings and the constant fighting with the Saxons, sometimes it seems amazing that anyone lived to tell the history.
In Bernard Cornwell's novel The Pagan Lord, this is the tale of whether this island will be England or Daneland.
Edward is now king but the Danish Vikings still hold much of what we now know as northern England. Leading these Danes is Cnut Longsword who views victory as within their foreseeable future.
Untred was Alfred's legendary warrior. Alfred is dead with Edward his successor. Unfortunately, aging and old wounds are beginning to slow down Untred's body, but not his spirit. He still strongly follows the gods of the north and views this new Christianity as a threat, even to disowning his own son. Also the new king does not actually like or trust Untred.
Untred is to go to the north and to gain control of his family home, Bebbanburg. He is knows the area well and is baffled of how his small group can possibly capture this impregnable fortress.
Bernard Cornwell creates a novel of Old England that is easy to understand and visualize. With names and places that are strange and foreign to us today, amazingly the story is easy to follow and comprehend. He does include a rough translation of the places as well as a map to assist the reader.
What is fascinating were the ever-changing loyalties due to heritage or religion, Saxon vs. Viking, and Christianity intermixed with the Norse gods. While the Saxons worshipped the nailed one, Christianity was also moving into the Danes frequently splitting loyalties of heritage.
In the introductory pages of this novel is a family tree of the royal family of Essex. With many of the names being unfamiliar to those who did not grow up in England, this page is extremely helpful with the names and their relationships.
Bernard Cornwell currently resides in the U.S. at either Cape Cod or in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the best selling author of numerous historical series including the Sharpe series, The Saxon Tales of which this book is included, The Grail Quest series, The Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles, The Warlord Chronicles, The Sailing Thrillers, and many other novels.
This series featuring Untred is outstanding. The character as a not always likeable but real person comes to life through Cornwell's writing. The reader can understand his prejudices while still viewing him as a crafty, skilled, and ruthless warrior. This manner of reliving history through Untred is phenomenal.
Did you ever wish for the good old days? Then, definitely read Bernard Cornwell's books.
Forgiving Maximo Rothman
A. J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing
P.O. Box 8515, Northfield, IL 60093
9780988954007, $16.95, 2013, 308 pages, www.amazon.com
"Life is too short to make enemies of those you love. Learn to forgive."
Max Redman is an elderly man who is discovered by his housekeeper when she arrived in the morning. He is still alive, just barely. The police notify Max's next of kin, his son. However, his son will not accept a ride in a car to the hospital where his father is dying. It is a holy day and you do not ride in a vehicle on a holy day.
Who is this man? Why does his son have two names, Steven Redmond and Shalom Rothman? Why would someone attack a gentle, friendly old man? These are the questions that detective Tolya Kurchenko is asking. He quickly discovers that to answer these questions, he must first discover who Max Redman really is.
Tolya Kurchenko is the detective responsible for this case. Tolya quickly finds the logical suspect only to find that he really does not believe this boy would harm Max. With his pregnant girlfriend, he searches the apartment and discovered Max's diaries. In reading the diaries, he realized he is finding Max.
In the year of 1939, many Jewish people were fleeing Europe. Between Russia and the rise of the Nazi movement, it was not difficult to predict that there would be future problems for these chosen ones. In looking into the past, many people wonder why more didn't leave? This was not the first time in history of persecution of the Jews through Europe and Russia. What prevented so many of these people from leaving?
Forgiving Maximo Rothman is the story of much of Max. Having been born in Hungary, he didn't have a simple normal life. As life became threatening in one country, the entire family would move to another and another. Finally an unusual opportunity became available to him and his wife. The Dominican Republic is willing to resettle a small group of people of about seven hundred into the town of Sosua on the northern coach. While safe, this life was rural farming which must have seemed like a completely different world to people who were accustomed to living in Vienna or Berlin.
The character development is phenomenal is this novel. The irony of Max being Jewish while leaving his faith and the detective, Tolya desiring to be a part of the Jewish community but being denied due to his maternal heritage creates an unusual dynamic with the story.
Forgiving Maximo Rothman is a story of what it is to be a Jew during the first half of the twentieth-century. From actually inside the synagogue to the typical Jewish home, this novel allows the reader to see what is not seen, heard or experienced by the general public. Also relevant in this novel is the realization of the horrible deaths of so many of their loved ones.
What is outstanding in this novel is its depiction of life seventy years ago in Europe. While intermixing the present day investigation with the events of the past through the diary, A.J. Sidransky has written a masterful mystery into a logical and passionate tale of life and death.
The underlying theme is forceful with the personal prejudices of many in an insular society. For people who do not perfectly fit into the traditional mold, how do these people fulfill their dreams?
Forgiving Maximo Rothman is A.J. Sidransky's debut novel. This novel was selected as "Finalist in Outstanding Debut Fiction" by the National Jewish Book Awards.
Forgiving Maximo Rothman is a phenomenal tale of real people and acceptance of others. This is unquestionable a memorable and moving story by a very gifted author, A. J. Sidransky.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345505767, $9.99, Paperback, 400 pp., www.amazon.com
After many years of training and working in hospitals, followed by establishing his private practice, Dr. Alex Delaware was contacted by a family court judge with a new approach: He was asked to undertake work ascertaining the facts surrounding divorce proceedings, evaluating the effects on children. Specifically a particularly complicated case. Alex was hesitant and struck a hard bargain, agreeing only to be employed by the courts, rather than serving on a panel of experts, employed b the attorneys for the parties to the cases, some of whom were mediocre and not up to his standards.
Thus was the beginning of a new line of work for the psychologist, and one that led to a case in probate court, in which a childless sister was suing for custody of the 16-month daughter of her younger, flaky sister. When Alex wrote his report favoring the mother, the elder sister threatened Alex. And subsequently attempted to take out a contract on his life. As a result, the events stemming from the case had many ramifications including several murders.
An Alex Delaware novel usually combines a crime mystery with psychological overtones. And, includes, of course, Lt. Milo Sturgis, the gay LAPD detective, with whom Alex consults as well. Killer is no exception. The popular series is, as always, well-plotted and smoothly written.
Saints of New York
141 Wooster St., NY, NY 10012
9781590204610, $26.95, Hardcover, 464 pp., www.amazon.com
This lengthy novel could easily have been split into two or three books: a police procedural, a psychological study of a troubled man, or even a look into the lives of a troubled family or two. Instead, it wraps up all three themes in a single volume with Frank Parrish, a gifted but undisciplined NYPD detective, as the protagonist.
Parrish, the son of one of the most respected and decorated NYPD detectives, knows that his father was dirty. And because of that, he attempts to follow a different path. Nevertheless, in trying to do the right thing, he too often breaks the rules, and so is on a short leash at the job. He also drinks heavily, has his license suspended and is forced to undergo psychotherapy. He also is divorced, and has a troubled relationship with his daughter and ex-wife.
Frank becomes obsessed with a single case, involving what appear to be young girls being made to participate in snuff movies. He discovers at least six such cases, all tied by a common thread: the girls were orphaned and under the jurisdiction of family services, leading to the conclusion that someone in that organization was responsible either for the murders or for identifying potential victims for someone else.
The plots run together, as Parrish seeks to discover the truth: of his relationship with his deceased father and of his children, as well as the case that drives him to virtual distraction. At times, this reader felt the novel was overwritten and badly in need of editing. However, maybe this approach is necessary to achieve the full picture of the tormented character. In any event, despite those reservations, the novel is recommended.
Death of a Nightingale
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Translated from the Danish by Elisabeth Dyssegaard
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954512, $15.95, Paperback, 336 pp., www.amazon.com
There are protagonists of all kinds, professions, sexes and other attributes, but in this series the protag is a Red Cross nurse, and an unusual one, since she has a compulsion to save the world and mistreated underdogs. So Nina Borg, in this, the third novel in the series, has a Ukrainian refugee (accused of knifing her abusive fiance, as well as her husband, back in the Ukraine), and her young daughter to protect.
The plot includes a backstory which takes place in the Ukraine during 1934-5 involving two sisters, one of whom is a die-hard Stalinist communist, but both of them sweet singers "like a nightingale." The present-day events, of course, have their roots in what happened to the sisters during the '30's and right up to the time of the present story.
This novel may be the best of the series; maybe the co-authors are developing an ability to lessen dependence on Nina's personal problems, such as her divorce, and more on solid plotting. The novel is well-written and the translation is smooth.
Mari Jungstedt, author
Tiina Nunnally, translator
19820 - 82nd P. N.E., Kenmore, Seattle, WA 98028
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9789175470221, $14.95/18.50 CA$, Paperback, 326 pp, www.stockholmtext.com
(Corgi Books in UK, 9780552159964, 400 pp., 7.99 BPS)
While ostensibly a murder mystery in the small Swedish town in which the Anders Knutas series is located, the theme running through the novel is the effect of a mother's attitudes on her children, and the detective's relationship with his son. The mystery concerns who killed event planner Viktor Algard with poison the night of the successful party opening a new conference center.
Initially, the question which arose was whether the murderer could have been someone who objected to the construction of the building. Then news that Viktor took on a new lover and told his wife he wanted a divorce results in additional suspects. First, of course, is the wife. Then when it was learned that the drink containing the poison was intended for the mistress, suspicion fell on her when she conveniently gave the glass to Viktor when she went to the ladies room.
Knutas has his work cut out for him, as he tries to discover the truth of a mixed-up family and their attitude toward the mistress, and face his own problems with his son. It is an interesting juxtaposition in a tight plot which moves forward at a rapid pace.
From the Dead
Atlantic Monthly Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122919, $16.00, Paperback, 416 pp., www.amazon.com
(also released in pb by Grove Press in the UK, 9.44 BPS)
D.I. Tom Thorne is one among the outstanding protagonists in the crime genre who doggedly solve murders and other mysteries while questioning their own talents, motivations and personalities, often to their own detriment. He, like many of the others, criticizes himself, albeit unnecessarily, because he, and they they, do achieve successes.
We see Thorne agonizing over the court's findings when it frees an accused murderer he and everyone else is convinced is guilty. Key to the innocent verdict is the fact that there is no body. But there is no time to worry about the case before another arises to occupy Thorne: a 10-year-old case that just won't disappear.
Donna Langford has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for having hired a hit man to murder her husband. Then she begins to receive photos of a man she says is that same husband. When she learns that her daughter has vanished, she can only conclude her husband is responsible, and she employs a private detective, Anna Carpenter, to investigate. Anna approaches Thorne and together they begin to work the case, setting off all kinds of repercussions which may be engineered by a man who is supposed to be dead but is perhaps intent on preserving a reconstructed life.
Once again, the author has written a deep police procedural with significant insights into the characters. While the investigation is hampered by the craftiness of the "dead" husband and roadblocks he throws in Thorne's way, he plods on doggedly, just in character. Written with smoothness and urbanity, the plot moves forward in unexpected ways.
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9780446550734, $26.00/29.00 CA$, Hardcover, 356 pp., www.amazon.com
This novel has many of the aspects of banality, but it is anything but triteness. In fact, it bristles with originality. The plot centers on Daniel, the homosexual son of a couple who worked hard all their lives only to end up with almost nothing because of investments destroyed during poor economic times. They choose to buy a farm in a remote part of Sweden, where Daniel's mother was born and lived until she left for England at the age of 16 years. There the plan for a contented retirement falls apart when she encounters what she believes to be a conspiracy.
Daniel, who has consistently put off visiting his parents because he is reluctant to disclose his sexual preference and introduce them to his significant other, receives a shocking phone call from his father informing him that his mother is not well, suffering from imagined occurrences and actually a psychotic breakdown. She is brought to a hospital and Daniel prepares to fly to Sweden, but before he can, his mother leaves the hospital and flies to London in an effort to enlist his assistance in reporting the conspiracy to the police.
This begins a slow, painstaking presentation by Daniel's mother, as she unfolds her experiences, observations and conclusions on the perceived evils that have taken place in the vicinity of the farm, including a possible sex ring involving young girls and maybe the murder of the 16-year-old daughter of a leading resident of the area. At the conclusion, Daniel undertakes to investigate the allegations by flying to Sweden and tracing his mother's life from the beginning to the recent events. And it turns out to be quite a trip giving the author an opportunity to turn everything upside down.
City of Darkness and Light
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250051608, $15.99, Paperback, 320 pp., www.amazon.com
This mystery series, featuring Molly Murphy (now Mrs. Molly Sullivan and mother of a bouncing boy) usually takes place in Little Old New York at the turn of the last century. But, because Capt. Sullivan has arrested the head of the mafia on the lower East Side and their home is bombed and burned to he ground in retribution, he insists that Molly and little Liam leave the city and go far away for their safety.
Molly's friends, Gus and Sid, are in Paris, so it is decided that Molly and the baby should go there. But when she finally arrives in the City of Light after a rough voyage, Gus and Sid are nowhere to be found. So Molly has to trek all over the city trying to find them. And in doing so, she becomes involved in another murder mystery. So much for her promise to her husband to give up being a detective.
Molly is a delightful character, and in this episode, she exhibits a degree of sophistication that shows her character and development, far removed from the Irish immigrant who first landed on the shores of the U.S. The plot pieces together an intricate mystery amid a graphic portrayal of Paris and its art scene, featuring such luminaries as Picasso and Degas.
A Dark and Twisted Tide
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250028587, $25.99, Hardcover, 444 pp., www.amazon.com
Still reeling from her recent harrowing experiences, Lacey Flint chooses to cease being a detective and reverts to working in uniform, albeit on a boat patrolling the Thames River; also living in a boat in a small inlet and taking up swimming in the polluted waters. But there is no way the author lets Lacey avoid danger and the taste of detecting. So it comes to pass one day that she encounters the remains of a female while swimming. And thus hangs a complicated tale.
Three more bodies turn up and Lacey becomes part of the investigation, which is full of twists and turns. It appears that the victims were from Afghanistan and smuggled up the Thames to some hidden location near where Lacey's boat is docked. So the investigation initially is centered on a case involving people-smuggling. The question, of course, is why. A subplot involves Dana (Lacey's boss) and her significant other, Helen, in their quest to have a baby, bringing them to a fertility clinic, setting the stage for another character to play a role in an ending that boggles the mind.
The author is famous for constructing novels full of surprises, and this one is no different. It is full of red herrings keeping the reader off balance and turning pages to find out what happens next.
The Cairo Affair
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1800, New York, NY 10010
9781250036155, $16.00, Paperback, 432 pp, www.amazon.com
Life in the espionage world is never what it seems to be. And that is certainly the case in this superb spy novel which follows the excellent Milo Weaver trilogy which ended with "The Tourist." This story begins in Virginia, at CIA headquarters, where a Libyan-American analyst convinces himself that an old plan, called Stumbler, which he had devised years before, but was shelved, to overthrow the dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, was apparently being implemented.
However, the main thrust of the plot involves the machinations of the various intelligence services: the CIA, Egyptian and, of course, Libyan. The main characters include an American diplomatic couple, various agents of the intelligence services, and of course, the analyst who travels to Egypt to enter Libya and contact his underground network to boost the plan.
The author has created a magnificently intriguing plot, filled with an inside look on how intelligence is gathered and disseminated. His portrayal of the various characters leaves the reader with substantial insight into the motivations, including both patriotism and greed, of those involved in spy craft. In his examination of why the various participants act as they do, he not only delves deeply into their psyches, but looks profoundly at the moral issues. Don't let the length of the novel put you off. It reads swiftly and enjoyably, and is highly recommended.
Scott McEwen with Thomas Koloniar
9781476747194, $19.99, 351 pp., Hardcover
9781476747200, $9.99, 464 pp., paperback
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
This novel takes terrorism to the next level, as two two-kiloton atomic bombs are smuggled into the United States, apparently with the intention of detonation on the anniversary of 9/11. One bomb detonates while being brought through a tunnel usually used to smuggle drugs in from Mexico, but the location of the other is unknown, and the race to find it serves to provide much excitement for the rest of the novel.
A broad picture is drawn of how such activities are financed and arranged, involving all kinds of terrorist groups, how the government works (or doesn't) in an emergency, and especially how mavericks can somehow achieve finite results despite bureaucratic indecision. It makes for an exciting ride from cover to cover, and is recommended.
Hell to Pay
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953959, $26.95, Hardcover, 320 pp., www.amazon.com
This is the first novel I have read by this Australian author and I am happy to report that it was a pleasure to read such fine writing. Apparently Mr. Disher has written more than 40 books in a variety of genres, including crime, and I'm surprised that he has just come to my attention. Nevertheless, needless to say, "Hell to Pay" is well worth reading.
Constable Paul ("Hirsch") Hirschhausen is reassigned to a one-road Australian town in a backwater area, three hours from Adelaide where he was a detective in a disgraced unit which rubbed off on him even if he wasn't part of the corruption enjoyed by his colleagues. He arrives with the reputation of having snitched on them to internal affairs, which may be partially correct since he did confirm what was already known. Be that as it may, he encounters a similar milieu in his new assignment, which gives the author am opportunity to analyze Hirsch's character when he is asked to spy on his co-workers on the force. He refuses, but shows ingenuity, a trait that serves him well in the pursuit of the main crime which comprises the plot.
The body of a 16-year-old female is found on the side of a highway soon after Hirsch arrives in Tiverton, and it falls to him to investigate. His determination is deterred by pressure from his sergeant to lay off, and this gives rise to another aspect of the situation in his relations with his colleagues. It makes for an interesting comparison between his dogged pursuit of the girl's killer and his reputation as a fink. How it all is resolved demonstrates the author's unusual talent.
The Hollow Girl
Reed Farrel Coleman
c/o F&W Media
57 Littlefield St., Avon, MA 02322
9781440562020, $24.95/27.99 CA$, Hardcover, 303 pp., www.amazon.com
[The book is also available in trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-4405-7301-9, $16.95/18.99 CA$]
The final novel in the Moe Prager series demonstrates again why these books and their protagonist are so popular with readers. Moe, a dyed-in-the-wool Brooklynite, ex-cop, PI and homespun philosopher who has beat stomach cancer, undertakes his final caper when Nancy Lustig, a figure from his very first case, retains him to find her missing daughter Sloane, now renamed Siobhan.
The daughter, as a teenager, who had gained notoriety and fame first as the Lost Girl in a series of performing art episodes on the internet, and then as the Hollow Girl as the happenings developed further, apparently is missing. Moe, who is wallowing in alcohol, still mourning the loss of his girl friend and soon-to-be-wife to an auto accident he witnessed from his apartment window, accepts the case, which gives him a steadying influence to help him emerge from his depression. Then the Hollow Girl begins to reappear after many years again on the internet, but this time in vicious attacks on her mother and father.
Naturally, the case develops differently from the original premise, and it falls to Moe to discover the facts and reasons for the woman's performances, a plot that is a fitting conclusion to a storied career. The deep philosophical musings characteristic of the series remain front and center, and some of the more amusing comments and situations of previous volumes are not present here, but that is no deterrent from a serious finale setting the stage for Moe's retirement.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250024749, $25.99, Hardcover, 313 pp., www.amazon.com
Andy Carpenter may be the frequently wise-cracking irreverent protagonist, but he faces some serious personal situations in this, the latest novel in the series. These are set in motion when his good friend, Lt. Pete Stanton, calls Andy and his girlfriend (and lead investigator), Laurie Collins, to join him quickly. Pete discovered the body of Danny Balfour, an ex-convict he had arrested and then befriended, and Danny's eight-year-old-son has to be taken care of, introducing
Andy and Laurie to the joys of parenthood.
Then, to make matters worse, Pete is arrested and charged with the murder, providing the reader with another wild Andy Carpenter investigation and murder trial.
The story is told with the author's usual wonderful humor, with twists and last-minute solutions at a seemingly losing trial (since the evidence against Pete is overwhelming, albeit planted). An Andy Carpenter novel is always fun to read, and "Hounded" is no exception.
Jo Nesbo, author
Translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385807243, $15.95, Paperback, 512 pp., www.amazon.com
Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian author best known for the Harry Hole series, has written a standalone, proving he is adept at writing a complicated thriller of epic proportions. It is a story of criminal and police corruption, and centers on Sonny Lofthus, son of a policeman who committed suicide, accused of being a mole for a gangster known as the Twin.
After his father's death, Sonny took to heroin, and confessed to a couple of murders he didn't commit in exchange for a guarantee of an endless supply of the drug while in prison. While incarcerated, Sonny gains Buddha-like status among the prisoners, granting salvation and peace to the inmates. Then comes the twist: Sonny goes cold turkey after learning that his father may have been framed, escapes and embarks on a plan of revenge against those he believes responsible for his father's death.
If the reader can suspend disbelief that a hardcore addict can quit after an addiction of 12 years, then the plot can move forward with some degree of rationality; even with Sonny hiding from a massive man-hunt by both the police and criminal element in plain sight and not being caught, while, ninja-like, exacting retribution on a series of victims. Other than these criticisms, this is one excellent novel, exciting, well-written, and deeply plotted, although overly long. But greatly enjoyable, and highly recommended.
Death of a Policeman
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455504749, $8.00, Paperback, 304 pp., www.amazon.com
Preserving his beloved small town Scottish Highland police station is a never-ending battle for Hamish Macbeth. And this time, he has to survive in the face of facilities being closed all over Scotland in the wake of cost-cutting. Meanwhile there's plenty to do, including the investigation into the shotgun death of a policeman who was spying on Hamish at the behest of his arch-enemy, Chief Inspector Blair.
This novel, the 30th in a long-running series, is a little different, especially as it encompasses the love lives of the various characters, including Hamish's assistant, Dick. And even Hamish begins to wonder whether he wants a companion other than his pets and Dick.
All the wonderful characteristics which have made the Hamish Macbeth mysteries popular abound in this latest entry: the local color, dialect and residents. And this time Macbeth exhibits a side of himself that is uncharacteristic in an effort to keep his beloved Lochdubh police station open.
The Care and Management of Lies
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062220509, $26.99, Hardcover, 319 pp., www.amazon.com
The old adage that an army travels on its stomach certainly is an apt description for this standalone by the author of the terrific Maisie Dobbs series. Like those novels, it is sent in and around World War I and captures the horrors of the Great War, the muddy trenches, the deaths and its effect on the folks back home.
The plot centers on Kezia Marchant who marries Tom, the younger brother of her good friend, Thea Brisenden, with whom she went to school, both becoming teachers. Then upon marrying Tom, Kezia becomes a farm wife. All this takes place shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, and when the war breaks out, Tom feels imperiled to enlist, leaving Kezia to manage the farm.
In the brief time before Tom leaves for France, a ritual develops, as Kezia learns to cook with a flourish, using ingenuity and good sense to set a table unlike anything her husband had ever experienced. And when he receives letters in the trenches they are filled with glowing accounts of dinners Kezia has prepared for him, filling his drudgery with lightness. And the rest of the soldiers in his unit take to the descriptions as well, adding to their joy in the face of the poor rations they have to endure. This is a novel demonstrating the ability of people to withstand all sorts of horrible experiences and survive, and it is recommended.
St. Martin's Paperbacks
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780250058478, $9.99, Paperback, 432 pp., www.amazon.com
Novels in the Anna Pigeon series usually take place in national parks featuring the wilderness as she grapples with the likes of forest fires and the like. This time, as she braves a Minnesota forest, it is four gunmen who have kidnapped two friends and their daughters while she was out canoeing, thus missing out on the party at the beginning: The five women originally planned to enjoy a long weekend camping at a park ranger site.
Thus begins a long trek of undue hardship as the captives are forced to travel toward a landing strip miles away where the kidnappers hoped to be picked up by a plane to wait for the eventual payoff. Instead, as they slowly head to their destination, trailed by Anna whose purpose obviously is somehow to rescue her friends, the reader is treated to a gruesome blow-by-blow account of the rough treatment the women receive and lessons in how to survive in the wilderness, courtesy of Anna the park ranger, as well as how to stalk prey.
The descriptions are graphic and powerful, brutal and mesmerizing. Unfortunately, from time to time, the author interjects opinions on a variety of side issues which detract from the forward thrust of the plot. Otherwise, this is a forceful tale, and is recommended.
Remains of Innocence
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062134721, $26.99, Hardcover, 389 pp, www.amazon.com
Sheriff Joanna Brady has her work cut out for her as two disparate murders fill her workday in Bixbee, AZ, and another case develops far away on the East Coast that impacts her cases. One murder involves a lovable but retarded man who apparently leaves his home through an open window one night only to be found by Joanna at the foot of an old mine shaft among some dead animals and in the company of a mutilated but live kitten. The other is the ME who is discovered tortured to death when he fails to turn up to do the autopsy on the first victim. The two cases are not related but keep the Bixbee police and Joanna's Sheriff's Department hopping.
Meanwhile, back in Massachusetts Liza Machett discovers thousands of hundred dollar bills among books and magazines in her mother's decrepit and cluttered home when the old lady is taken to a hospice, where she son dies. At the funeral, Liza is told by an old man who worked with her father years before that she might be the victim of some "bad guys." When she returns home, she discovers her landlady murdered. Then weeks later, after she spends thousands to rehabilitate her mother's home in an effort to sell it, an arsonist burns it down. Thus begins a cross country trip to meet her brother, the murdered ME (of which she is unaware), in an effort to learn more about the money.
The various cases obviously intertwine, and so the novel unwinds as the police procedural progresses, accumulating facts, analyzing forensic evidence, and simply moving forward on Joanna's hunches. The plot speeds ahead smoothly and is suspenseful, especially as to its conclusion.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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