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Wendy Lamb Books
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 10th Floor New York, NY 10019
9780385386074, $16.99, 336 Pages, hardcover, www.amazon.com
ASIN: B00J1IQV64, $7.99, 338 Pages, Kindle
It's 1972 in Cape Cod and Chirp just turned eleven. She has no worries as summer is carefree. With bird-watching in the woods, throwing rocks with Joey, dancing in the rain with her sister Rachel and her mother-childhood where each new day is full of fun and adventures. But all is about to change as Rachel turns thirteen and turns teenager and her mother, who is a dancer, becomes sick. But Chirp believes nothing will change - her mother will get better and she will dance again. After her parents tell the girls the diagnosis is MS, Chirp believes if she just feels the soft warmth of her mother's hand she knows everything will be alright. As she slowly touches her mother's hand instead of the soft warmth she expects, her mother's hand is cold and clammy and Chirp knows now that everything has changed...
Ehrlich writes a poignant, sweet, loving tale of carefree days of childhood and of growing up. I loved the friendship between Chirp and Joey. Joey is the abused boy who lives across the street and as problems seem to surround their lives it turns out the two need each other. Ehrlich's debut novel is so movingly beautiful but sad as proof that childhood is not always easy. I was carried away to childhood once again- living it through the eyes of Chirp and Joey. Wanting to take their pain away and give them that carefree childhood once again. I love the escape that Chirp creates in like a bird she makes a nest in her room that I am sure all can relate to as even adults want to escape from the problems of the world. Written for ten and up I highly recommend for preteen, teen and adult as this one is so special there is something here for everyone. Believe me this one creeps into your thoughts and into your heart and won't let go long after the story ends.
Noddy In Wonderland
B00N842F76, $4.99, www.amazon.com
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
Thy hilarious kingdom cometh - A review of the novel 'Noddy In Wonderland'
"Fantasy mirrors desire. Imagination reshapes it" - Mason Cooley
Rules were made to be broken, especially when these rules were created by a few to control the majority. Human beings can't survive on impulses alone in the long run; they need objective standards to set their life choices against. And objectivity requires principles and not some arbitrary rules. Principle means having a choice, a say, an understanding of reality to let thyself be governed by an explicit or implicit authority, directly or indirectly. And when principles fail, all hell breaks loose.
Author Paddy Bostock returns with a brand new novel 'Noddy In Wonderland' that extols you to stick it to the man while chuckling away till the very end. When a former soldier, Noddy returns to his hometown, Liverpool, he harbours a dream of becoming its king and no, he doesn't suffer from PTSD. When he shoots a government minister in the bottom, he unwittingly divides the country into two groups, a group of fan boys and copycats who approve of him and the entire government machinery who threaten to go all out against him. How Noddy manages to turn this situation around and see his dream come true forms the rest of the story. And on this fantasy adventure he chugs along a large group of accomplices and friends including his brother Knobby, a beautiful gothic girlfriend Meryl and even an elf and a talking dog.
Paddy Bostock is that kind of an author whom you could drop in the middle of the ocean and he would still find something funny about every wave that threatens to drown him. Mixing satire and sarcasm to a full blown out fantasy novel is hard work as there's always a chance that the comedy may not work as you intended especially when you are hood winking the reader by hiding behind a character and talking about some real socio political issues. But in 'Noddy In Wonderland' behind the obvious hilarity lies a profound understanding of human nature and an in depth contemplation of ineffable issues. The book is packed in such a manner that even though there are plenty of 'messages' there are also enough pop culture references and subtle humor and not so subtle one liners in every page that you can't help but chuckle out aloud and also acknowledge the genius behind the fine writing.
Just like in his previous books Paddy's latest one is also a complex novel with so many characters and so many things happening at the same time. But his multi dimensional characters are all brilliantly conceived and sympathetic, who bring their unique bit to the story telling. The story has several plots going on at once that are constantly interrupted by each other but they somehow all come together beautifully. The characters and the situations simply become the many small pieces to a beautiful puzzle at the end.
Noddy In Wonderland is a wild ludicrous ride with a narrative which probably wouldn't make sense in any other setting and you would call it out too but under Paddy's measured writing and almost maniacal genius you willingly go along with the ride and soon everything starts making sense when you realize that the author has wittingly and mockingly attacked the flaws in our system that we're all aware of, but choose to do nothing about.
There's a lot that you can take away from this novel, like the author's ability to interject this deadpan, sarcastic humor with the absurdity of our everyday life. He has flawlessly combined so many elements to form a book that has the best a fantasy, a mystery, a romance and a comedy novel has to offer. Editing of the book is top notch as the pace of the narrative is never allowed to slow down while presenting serious issues through characters and situations that are extremely funny.
This is the kind of book that you should consume slowly, preferably one page a day to soak in the beauty of the madness but here's the big contradiction, once you start reading it you will realize how good it is and you will end up cursing yourself for not being able to wean away from it and you will get cursed at too for ignoring your 'worldly' functions as you sit glued to the happenings in Noddy In Wonderland.
When the Shoe Fits...: Essays of Love, Life and Second Chances
Mary T. Wagner
Amazon Digital Publishing
BOOM39X7WE, $3.99, www.amazon.com
Mary Crocco, Reviewer
Intrigued by the synopsis of When the Shoe Fits, I anticipated reading Mary T Wagner's essays. Relating to Mary's life in so many of her stories, having experienced similar second chances of my own, I found the narratives entertaining.
Regardless of subject matter, each essay kept me engaged with the author's comedic skill, while presenting real life scenarios that embraced a variety of emotions.
Mary T Wagner sprinkled wisdom throughout her essays, leaving pearls to ponder. I enjoyed reflecting on my life only to discover new avenues still available to test.
Bible Bands: Create Your Own Faith-Based Rubber Band Jewelry
Plain Sight Publishing
c/o Cedar Fort, Inc.
2373 W. 700 S., Springville, UT 84663
9781462115051, $9.99, paperback, 64 pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: crafts & hobbies
Bible Bands is a fun, educational how-to book for children who love making jewelry. Not only does it teaches how to make lovely designs, but it also strengthens children's faith by combining hands-on creativity with Bible verses and stories.
Rubber band jewelry seems to be the hottest new craze, so Eden's book comes at the right time. Though at first glance, when you look at the jewelry, it might seem complicated and difficult to make, especially for kids, the author demystifies it with simple step-by-step instructions accompanied by colorful photos. I found the language and descriptions clear and straight-forward, easy for most kids to understand, though the younger ones will need guidance from an adult, at least at first. There are over 12 designs, from the simplest to the most elaborate.
Eden incorporates faith with verses and symbols, such as a blue and white pattern to symbolize Christ's baptism, a heart design to remind you of God's love, and a multi-colored weave to match Joseph's coat of many colors, among others.
Bible Bands doesn't come with the looms or bands, but you can find these at most craft shops. This will make a lovely gift for any child, especially those who are into crafts. It is also a good book for those long summer and Christmas holidays, as it will keep children entertained for hours. Recommended!
Mystery at Marlatt Manor
Anne Louder McGee
9781936307050, $7.99 Paperback / $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Michael Thal, Reviewer
A Scary Mystery
Mallory Gilmartin, uprooted by divorce from her Philadelphia home, is transplanted to rural Virginia. Cedar Creek is a complete bore and its middle school doesn't even have a girls' baseball team. Everything changes fast when a sports car forces the thirteen-year-old cyclist off the road and into a ditch as it speeds away from the spooky house on the hill.
Soon after, Mallory's mom tells her about Violet Marlatt, a missing teen who disappeared 50 years ago from Marlatt Manor during a party, and was never seen again. That night, Mallory sees a flickering light in the deserted house followed by the silhouette of a girl. Could that be Violet's ghost?
Anne Loader McGee brings us a fast paced middle school novel, The Mystery at Marlatt Manor, as teen sleuth Mallory uncovers the mystery of the missing girl and the weird people that seem to be hunting for a possible lost treasure.
Along the way, McGee introduces us to a cast of quirky characters. First, there's Grandma Aggie, who would rather ride a motorcycle, skydive, or delve into forensic science than sit in a rocker and knit. There's also Kyle, an 8th grade nerd who wears checkered pants; Roger Dunlop, a grumpy banker; and Albert Hampton, Marlatt Manor's creepy caretaker.
Coupled with all this, Aggie may lose her beloved home and Mallory has strange dreams that may be the key to solving everyone's problems, including the manor's mystery.
If you like suspense, psychic ability, and a scary story, The Mystery at Marlatt Manor is for you. Just beware, once you start reading, you won't be able to stop until you reach the surprising climax.
You and Me, Baby
Lynn Reiser and Penny Gentieu
Knopf Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780375834011, $15.95 hc, 40 pages, www.amazon.com
Molly Martin, Reviewer
Age Range: a read to work for the 2 - 4 year olds, and a read with help for the 4 - 7s.
Lynn Reiser and Penny Gentieu have teamed to produce a lovely work, You and Me, Baby, suitable for gifting young parents, older siblings and the baby him or herself.
Magnificent prints of charismatic and engaging babies as well as their parents representing diverse cultures are used to generate an appealing picture book depicting outsized, full page, graphic of a toddler and parent as they interact with smiles, loving glances and the delight of enjoyment of babyhood generally found concerning parents and their children.
Hey, baby! Look at you, looking at me, begins the text. Unpretentious words appropriate for reading aloud by parent from earliest days in their child's life. The first pair depicted are a mom and her little one as they act together while sitting on the floor together. The following duo shows a young dad and his child, Wow, baby! Look at you, waving at me. The fun of entertaining play and warmth of affection are obvious as baby responds to dad's or mom's care.
Illustrations showing beaming, happy babies, most showing a brand new tooth or two, resonate with the enormity of responsibility, love and sentiment parents and children are developing as they together inaugurate the life journey upon which they find themselves.
Now, baby! Look at me, smiling at you, smiling at me, feeding you, portrays a healthy, happy baby first having her mom offer a spoonful of something tasty and then a shot of mom and baby sharing a cuddle. Continuing the loving interaction between parent and child we read, Ooooh, baby! Look at you, splashing me, splashing you revealing an infant clearly relishing the daily bath; a time most parents treasure as their baby splashes and plays.
Clincal professor of psychiatry at Yale University, Lynn Reiser, author of the work lives in Hamden, Ct, while photographer Penny Gentieu maintains a studio in New York.
Oh, baby! Look at you, looking at me brings a towel draped baby just from her bath laughing, enjoying mom's kisses to the sole of her foot while smiling at her mom.
Moms and Dad, varied ethnic and racial backgrounds and babies are shown to perfection in this lovely picture book. Each snapshot features an ordinary contact between parent and baby, including smiling, feeding, hugging, playing peek-a-boo; the common repertoire parents and babies have enjoyed for generations. Large full page close-ups are filled with expressions and actions often seen between parents and children.
I like the minimal, repetitive text. Large engaging photos of children appearing as aged few months to about 12 months clearly illustrate the text while helping to promote language development for reader and the babies and children to whom they are reading.
I was sent an arc for review. I found You and Me, Baby to be a large, well-made picture book and am happy to recommend You and Me, Baby as a baby shower possibility for young parents welcoming their first child, as well as a gift possibility for older siblings who are also awaiting the birth of the baby who will become part of their lives as well as that of the parents.
The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
Spiegel & Grau
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York NY 10019
9780812993424, 449 pages, $27.00, www.amazon.com
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
Among the consequences of the Wealth Gap in America seems to be the establishment of two different sets of laws, one for the rich and one for everyone else. This book gives the details.
The sale of Lehman Brothers to Barclays Bank was advertised as a last-minute, desperation fire sale. How did Barclays manage to get an extra five billion dollars as part of the deal? Among the reasons why the Justice Department doesn't prosecute "too big to fail" banks, or their top executives, is because they have lots of money, and lots of lawyers, to delay and delay the case until the government gives up. It is easier for the government, and it looks better, to go after smaller targets. Evidently, the agreements where a bank agrees to pay several billion dollars without admitting guilt, even for money laundering or handling Colombian drug cartel money, "sends a message." (Really?) There is the story of a group of billionaire hedge fund managers who conspired to drive a Canadian insurance company out of business, using dirty tricks. Countrywide Financial intentionally did not want to know details of the financial health of the people to whom they were lending money. They were happy to lend to anyone.
On the other side of the divide, how can America's prison population be going way up while the rate of violent crime is way down? The answer is: Stop and Frisk. Did you know that standing on the sidewalk in front of your house in New York City can get you arrested and thrown in a police van that just happens to be nearby? After going through the court system, charged with Blocking Pedestrian Traffic (even if there was no one else on the sidewalk at the time), you could be back in front of your house. This time, you are standing at the edge of the sidewalk, almost on the street. Prepare to get arrested again, charged with Blocking Vehicular Traffic (even if you weren't actually in the street).
The new criminal class in America seems to be welfare applicants and recipients. The author does not mean to suggest that accusations of welfare fraud should not be investigated, and, if necessary, prosecuted. What is the sense in assuming that Everyone is trying to defraud the system? This is not a case of "guilty until proven innocent" but "we know you are guilty, and eventually, we'll prove it."
This book easily reaches the level of Wow. It is a very eye-opening, and rather disheartening, look at life in present-day America. It is extremely highly recommended for all Americans.
The Luthier's Apprentice
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340 Kingsport, TN 37664-3340
9781606790296, $15.95, 184 pages, www.TwilightTimesBooks.com
I loved the cover of this book. One look and I knew I wanted to read it. I grew up playing the violin and the cover showed a woman doing just that. Her hair was blowing and so was her dress. To me she must be a great violinist as it seemed like there was magic in the air. The cover already had my imagination working.
When I began to read this book I found it to be a brilliantly imagined story. Right from the first page I was hook on this book. I don't think this book should be just limited to young adult but to anyone who loves this genre.
PG for violence
949 N. W. Overton Street #602, Portland, OR 97209
97814960044369, $12.95, 302pp, www.amazon.com
Raymond A. Klesc, New Books Review
Jo Barney writes about older women a lot like herself. Elllie, in her first well reviewed book, Graffiti Grandma, obsessed on the graffiti messing up the mailboxes in her neighborhood and on the serial killer messing up the nearby park with bodies. She helped get rid of both.
Jo got the idea for the book as she sprayed Graffit-X for the tenth time on the mailbox across the street, so angry she only sputtered when a kid asked her what she was doing.
Now, in her next novel, UPRUSH, four old friends meet at a beach house for their usual coming together to drink wine, complain about husbands, or the lack of them, compare upper arm flab - the usual stuff old friends do Except this time one of them, Madge, a writer, asks the other three to help her commit suicide. She has a good reason. Her friends, once they learn it, must decide with great misgivings and sadness what they will do. Madge has a gift for them, no matter what: her take on their lives over the past forty-some years, her last novel, stories which will change their futures.
Jo has four similar college friends who have visited the Oregon coast in the forty years since they graduated from college. "What if one of us got Alzheimer's?" someone asked a while back. "Hey, we're here to laugh and drink wine, so stop with the annoying questions," someone else answered. And Jo had her next novel.
Reviews: This story of four friends speaks strongly to women, and I believe makes great reading for men. The characters are developed carefully over the course of the book. You see how each are quite different, yet why they've stayed friends for forth years. For me, the most interesting aspect was the decision made by one of the women, which becomes the central incident for this novel. I won't be a spoiler, but I will say that many times since I read the book, I have found myself pondering her decision and wondering how I would have handled the situation. This book is a natural for lively discussions for book groups. I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it highly. Janet Young
Originally published as an ebook (The Solarium), both the paperback and the new ebook are available at www.amazon.com/uprush. UPRUSH is also distributed by Ingram and by Baker & Taylor.
About the Author:
After graduating from Willamette University, I spent the most of next thirty years teaching, counseling, mothering, wifing and of course, writing. For a couple of years, though, I did none of this, preferring to live a little. While I was working as a counselor, my writing appeared in small literary magazines and professional publications. Since retirement, I've had the time to write four novels and two screenplays.
The first book used my teaching life as inspiration, and served as a way to leave a profession I loved. The second story focused on my then-prodigal son, the hockey player. I believe he is relieved that it has not yet been published even though he served as my consultant on the icy details. My third novel, The Solarium, is an intimate, almost true, story of four women lot like my own long time friends.
Graffiti Grandma, examines the lives of an old woman and the underworld of the homeless in living the forest nearby.
The next book, coming out this year, tells of Edith who wakes up one morning as a widow. If it appears that my protagonists are growing old, well, so am I. My stories and essays, as well as the novels, reflect my observations of women's lives and the people who inhabit them: the children, husbands, parents, friends, strangers who happen by and change everything.
The Northern Star: The Beginning
2613 Oak Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Price: $2.99 digital/$14.99 paperback, Page Count: 356
Charles Bennett, Reviewer
Rating: 4 stars
Mike Gullickson's THE NORTHERN STAR: THE BEGINNING is a big a stew of, among other genres, cyberpunk, dystopian sci-fi, political thriller, body horror and whatever genre is the one with giant fighting robots. It's set in a very bleak 2058, with the U.S. military occupying the entire Middle East, and petroleum so scarce that cars are practically extinct. The internet is now a psychically linked virtual-reality environment, and the corporation that keeps the mind-internet running is pretty much more powerful than just about any government. The U.S. government has put its faith in its new top-secret weapon: a cyborg warrior that's virtually indestructible. And there's another top-secret weapon that only one rogue government operative knows about: an autistic boy who can control the cybesrpace world in a Keanu-Reeves-like way.
Part of the strength of this, the first installment of Gullickson's THE NORTHERN STAR series, is how both disturbing and horribly plausible this future is. And it's a future full of moral ambiguity: the novel never really gives you anyone to root for, just some lighter and darker shades of gray. The novel never tells the reader what to think or how to feel, though most everyone will agree that at very least a great many of the players in this novel's geopolitical game are guilty of some pretty unspeakable atrocities.
With the graphic violence and the vivid descriptions of the truly awful and dehumanizing process of converting injured soldiers into battle cyborgs, it's worth noting this book is in many ways an essentially human story: despite it being a story in which so much humanity is stripped away, so much more of it remains. The human touch shows up in so many places, such as this otherwise ominous passage: "The constant John had was his family. The rest of the world was slick like oil, slipping through his fingers, always flowing away. He had chosen this life, he had known what he signed up for, but watching his best friend get wheeled out, never knowing if the eye contact they now shared would ever be shared again, filled John with melancholy." [p. 159]
If THE NORTHERN STAR: THE BEGINNING has any flaws, it would be that, in addition to the Matrix-like elements hinted at above, the end of the novel does at times threaten to become an Iron Man film. But it's always at least a little more than a conventional robot/superhero story, spanning multiple character arcs and genres and staking out plenty of territory of its own.
A truly disturbing book that also somehow manages to be hard to put down, THE NORTHERN STAR: THE BEGINNING has a solid story with good characters, and so much suspense, both plot-suspense and moral suspense, that it reveals itself as something far more cerebral than any giant-fighting-robots story generally ever is.
Amazon Digital Publishing
9780992462307, $26.70 (PB), Kindle $8.99, 602pp, www.amazon.com
This novel by Martin P. Knox is vast in scope, scintillating in the brilliance of its conception and staggering in the creation of its hero. This is the work of a major talent, and I am very, very surprised that no traditional publishing house has published his work before now. That Martin Knox has decided to put his faith in the quality of his work and step out alone into the world of self-publishing says a lot about the character and courage of the man. His writing is tough and unrelenting and a real pleasure to read.
In this opus there are all sorts of stimuli that flood the reader's perceptions, each with its own sense of urgency, each clamouring to be heard first. A reviewer can read and enjoy a novel, and be swept away by it, as easily as any other reader. But a reviewer must attempt to step away from the novel and look at the screws that hold it together. I mean, for example, that the plot structure needs to be evaluated for what it offers, and the characters, setting, and narrative likewise. From these micro-bits working together a piece of writing emerges.
Love Straddle has a structure that is 'in your face' at one level while bubbling away underneath where it is almost unnoticed. Every reader very quickly notices that there is a prologue followed by fourteen parts containing 105 chapters, and that the naming of each part is accompanied by a pithy saying. There's nothing particularly original about that, but what is striking is that each chapter is completed with what the writer calls a rule. We are told in the prologue that the main character is an engineer who has recently discovered "the natural laws of behaviour", and that if he had known about these laws he could have avoided the unsettling events he has had to experience. The prologue ends with this little gem, surely the most telling observation that an engineer might not want to hear:
Now I will tell you my story - at least, my part in events - including my own and other people's emotions, that engineers like me normally ignore [my italics]. But emotions are important, as I have lately discovered (1).
The book then becomes a record of an awakening. Having been tricked into taking a lie detector test, Selwyn records, as an engineer would do, the clinical outcome of the behaviours that he had observed to this point viz Rule 1: Men limit lying to the speaking of untruths, whereas women include men's insincerity and withholding of truths (14). This overt structure remains with the novel throughout e.g. in a very important section, Part 4: Third Year Straddle, the writer explains that what is looming is a time "in which love becomes a commodity, relationships are investments, and I adopt the portfolio strategy of a spread between two relationships" (117).
Having determined in Chapter 21 that unconditional sex is rarely possible, and still pursuing the implications of tricking people into admissions they ordinarily would not like to make, a characteristic that exactly mirrors reality as perceived by a man such as Selwyn, our hero merges with Part 4 into the explanation for the odd title given to the work. Here we get into the concept of a straddle, a manipulation of the market in commodity futures:
...an investor in commodity futures wants to spread the risk between commodities that are substitutes for each other... when the price of one goes down, the other goes down as well" (157).
Selwyn then applies such a concept to women and their affections to comical effect. It is in the teasing out of this idea into human behaviours that the originality of Knox's writing appears.
The character, Selwyn, stands head and shoulders above the others. He is an egotist with a brilliant brain. He is capable of prodigious effort and marshals his time in ensuring that his goals are reached. He aims for a degree with first class honours and achieves it. He wants to become Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation and succeeds above all odds. Along the way he tackles problems with originality and, through perseverance, makes his way to the top.
But Selwyn has a vast lack in his makeup. He cannot master the skills of getting along. Aware that he is unpopular but lacking a notion that working or empathizing with others is a skill he should develop, he sucks people dry and then abandons them. He knows that his actions are hurtful but fails to see 'what they're on about'. Vicki drives this point home when she says, "If you wanted something from a person, you just went up to them and asked for it. When you had finished with them, you walked off, leaving them feeling used. You never bothered to find out about them or build a rapport. You are a control freak" (581).
Moreover, and in this lies the originality of Knox's character, the author never allows his readers to forget that Selwyn has a personality disorder. Selwyn pursues a subject long after a normal person has moved on. There are many examples of refocusing on this theme. The 'theme' is more closely aligned with the character than it is with the story. In Part 4 Selwyn becomes introduced to, and absorbed by, the concept of a straddle. He applies it to the women in his life. Four hundred pages later, despite the many and varied experiences he has had, he is still pursuing that idea. He says of Vicki and the husband Selwyn has just met, "She had never mentioned him. I suppose she had her own straddle and had sold me short. I could hardly blame her for that" (580).
Vicki remains an enigma throughout the book. We know the pivotal role she plays. She is Selwyn's ideal woman. But we know about her largely from Selwyn's response to her; she is presented to us through the diffused lens of Selwyn. She is more developed than Barbara or any of the other characters, excluding Selwyn. I can see Vicki moving through the pages but I can't feel her. She exists as Selwyn's foil. Barbara is not a person at all. Her role is to be Selwyn's sex partner and the only time she becomes human is when she discovers she is pregnant. She is a mechanical creation rather than a breathing human being. The problem with Knox's characters is that it is often difficult to distinguish one from another. Excepting Selwyn and possibly Vicki at times, the characters suffer from a sameness that makes it impossible to care about them.
Little can be said about the settings in which Selwyn appears as he grapples with important technical and ethical issues. They are very clearly drawn and one can find little to quibble about. Knox is a master at showing us through indirect means whether Selwyn is in a boardroom or a jungle, on a plane or in a classroom or laboratory. We are never in doubt about where he is.
One of the major strengths of Knox's prose is his understatement. It's a morose man who cannot marvel at this passage:
I have a condom in my pocket. I have been carrying it since the lower sixth and it has embossed a circle in the soft leather. The mark embarrasses me because it shows a very long period of denial. I dread being questioned about this mark, and so I always keep my wallet well-hidden. The imprinted ring symbolises the many years of frustration I suffered.
It takes some time to get going. Fortunately, I find some Vaseline in a drawer and take a chance that it will not weaken the rubber (111).
This passage and the scene that follows in which Selwyn loses his virginity contrast sharply one with the other. The quoted scene tells us nothing of the pent-up, excited anticipation that most men would feel. But Selwyn feels no such anticipation, simply because he has no idea of the joy the encounter will bring him in the next few minutes. However, in the following scene, the language changes and Selwyn is "teetering on the brink of ecstasy before plunging into the delight of an orgasmic snowdrift" (111). Such language betrays a master writer. Knox is amazing in scenes like these, in manipulating the appropriateness of the prose to suit the situation.
Good as the book is there are weaknesses that Knox might like to think about. I found the prolonged sex binge unlikely. I cannot imagine a man conducting himself in this way for so long. Selwyn may have lived through a decade when 'free' sex was supposedly easy to get. I lived through the sixties and seventies and observed no such freedom, but I cannot deny that others, presumably like Selwyn, report differently. On another point, there is a long description of Selwyn's thoughts about communal living. This made very frustrating reading. It is not unusual that an inexperienced writer will produce a novel that goes flat in the middle. I would suggest that Knox trim this section heavily. It sags and detracts from a fine piece of writing.
The last words in this review have to be delivered by the irrepressible Selwyn. Vicki has given him his marching orders and he has taken up with Helen.
Vicki knows what I'm like. Her place in my straddle allows her full freedom. If it becomes possible, I still want to close out my short on her and exchange my love for hers, at my best price.
Until then, I also have a long position and am invulnerable (591).
What a hoot! This book is recommended very highly. Get hold of a copy from Amazon. You'll enjoy it as much as I did.
The Winter Boy
Sally Wiener Grotta
Pixel Hall Press
9780988387126, $29.95 (HC)
9780988387133, $17.95 (PB)
Kindle $4.99, 508pp, www.amazon.com
Dr. Alma H. Bond, Reviewer
Sally Wiener Grotta is a writer with a terrific imagination. As a result, her latest book, The Winter Boy, is highly original. She has created an extended civilization of the Alleshi, the Mwertic, etc. of a different time, country, and culture, with mores unlike any I ever have read. Every detail of the imagined country has been carefully thought out by the author, including the unique names of her characters, such as Jinet, Teadrac, and Ryl, and the hero's curse word, "Skies!"
The major theme of the book is the kind of apprenticeship for which special boys, the Winter boys, are selected to be trained by the Alleshi, a cloistered society of widows who mentor young men to become the leaders of society. The Valley of the Alleshi is the core and foundation of centuries of peace, maintained by a unique system of the training of the Winter boys. Each is taken under the wing of a woman who trains him in matters of sharpening his senses and developing a deep understanding of himself as well of other human beings, first and foremost herself. She helps him to become all that he is capable of becoming, a strong, powerful, insightful, generous, unself-centered Aleman. This is done in many ways, including story telling and sexual mentoring, which is described in exquisite graphic detail. Particularly creative is the Alleshi technique of explaining a woman's sex organs through the demonstration of a pearl in an oyster. All the Alleshi skills are founded on "an understanding of the physical self, a tool to be utilized, a power to be harnessed" (p.7).
Where did The Valley of the Alleshi find women capable of teaching such intensive and intimate material? They trained them in as thorough a program as the one the Alleshi taught their pupils. Rishana, Dov's Allesha, is 43 years old. At the time, she had been in training for three years. "She had studied how to control with the turn of a hand, to seduce with a mere glance, to disarm with a smile. Lessons with various Alleshine teachers had focused her eye to read the subtle signs in another's behavior, gestures and voice. Other Alleshi taught her self - defense and ways to avoid the need to defend.
"She'd spent untold hours absorbed in The Valley's extensive history, trade, treaties, and the cultures of the diverse peoples within and beyond the Peace borders, seeking hints about the long ago hidden time before the Great Chaos. (This is never expounded upon in the book, but would have made for interesting reading.) "Combining her new skills, observations and growing knowledge, she had practiced a range of possible responses to many different scenarios, altering her approach, posture and tone to achieve the most beneficial outcome.
"All this time, Rishana's every waking moment had been consumed by the study and practice of the many disciplines required to become a successful Allesha" (p. 6)."
The relationship between the central characters, Dov and Rishana, is tender, moving, and poignant. I couldn't help thinking as I read the book that such intimacy, especially the teenager's sexual experiences with his mentor, is every adolescent's dream fantasy come true.
An elderly psychoanalyst once told me that in her mind the ideal sexual combination would be of two groups who ordinarily were sexually frustrated: older women and adolescent boys. She would have liked Grotto's book.
A subplot consists of conspiracies unknown to all but a few, which threaten to tear the society apart. Special circumstances of his birth which cannot be gone into here make Dov the ideal candidate to resolve the problems, when his training is complete.
Although "The Winter Boy" is interesting, my major criticism is that it is too long (508 pages). I found many of the stories the characters tell each other boring, and must confess that I skimmed through some of them. In my opinion, the book would be considerably improved by being shortened.
Nevertheless, despite this shortcoming, most of The Winter Boy is highly readable. It captures the reader's interest immediately and swiftly carries him or her through the incredible story. Grotta has greatly improved as a writer, and The Winter Boy is much better than Jo Joe, her first book. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read and relishes an incredible flight of fantasy.
About the Author:
Sally Wiener Grotta is an award winning journalist, who has written hundreds of articles, columns, and reviews for PC Mag, Parade, Woman's Day, Islands, TechTarget, IEEE Spectrum, as well as scores of other magazines, newspapers, and online publications. JoJoe was Grotta's first novel, which received critical acclaim. She also has co-authored a number of non-fiction books with her husband, Daniel Grotta. The Winter Boy was published on November 2014. She is also a fine photographer and artist. For more information about Sally Wiener Grotta, visit http://www.Grotta.net
S. S. Segran
412 North Main St, Suite 100, Buffalo, WY. 82834
9780991081301, $25.95 (HC), $15.95 (PB), $4.99 eBook
Michael Radon, Reviewer
The US Review of Books
"He found the wolf's eyes unnerving, more so with the flames reflected in them."
What starts with a simple plane ride among teenage friends ends in disaster when a storm sends the aircraft crashing down in the Canadian wilderness. Miraculously, the five youths are brought to a hidden village of a mysterious people who tend to their wounds. Much to the surprise of the teens - Jag, Kody, Aari, Tegan, and Mariah - the village Elders eventually reveal to them that they are likely a part of an ancient prophecy that includes dark times for the world that only they can overcome. All this is a lot for the kids to take in, especially when they're preoccupied with wanting to get home and search for their missing pilot, Kody's father. When a mysterious illness begins claiming the lives of the villagers, the five teenagers and their new allies are thrust into a dangerous position where they must learn new skills and cooperate to even have a chance of making it home.
The story of this compelling and entertaining young adult novel is one of overcoming adversity and doing the right thing, which makes it all the more appropriate that a portion of the book's sales do the very same thing for children in the real world. The characters are all distinct and work well as an ensemble cast. The action is slow to begin but in the closing acts of the book becomes so prevalent and intense that the build-up is forgivable to make room for such an action-packed finale. A title like this is screaming for adaptation as a successful film, television show, or even a continual series of novels that young and old readers alike can devour and become drawn into with its mythology and entertaining characters.
Recommended by the USR
A Stable Birth
June G. Paul
1663 South Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781499008685; $24.99 (HC), $15.99 (PB), $3.99 e-book, 92pp, www.amazon.com
c/o Kirkus Media LLC
6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
A short parable-like novella about the birth of Jesus Christ, Paul's (Praying Our Way Through Stress, 2013) latest is a brief work of religious historical fiction, similar to those of such best-selling Christian authors as Francine Rivers and Janette Oke. This work centers on the birth of Jesus and uses the tools of fiction to expand and elaborate upon the standard story in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.
The familiar elements are all here: The young woman Mary of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph the carpenter, tells him that she's been visited by an angel of God and is going to have a child who will be the savior of the world. Joseph is at first incredulous and outraged. "An angel?" he asks her angrily, adding, "Mary, you are just a girl" - one of Paul's many lines that ring absolutely true. Joseph assumes that Mary has been with another man, voluntarily or not. Mary, and a visit from an angel in a dream, eventually convinces him of the truth, but when the two marry and journey to Bethlehem, they're faced with the challenge of convincing someone else: namely, the keeper of a crowded inn. The gruff innkeeper and his tough, no-nonsense wife are the most enjoyable creations in Paul's short tale - two everyday people who must decide how to cope with an unbelievable story.
Joseph's transparent sincerity wins over the innkeeper, who must then convince his wife that young Mary isn't simply an adulteress. This argument between man and wife is the novella's highlight, rich with simple, convincing human details. For example, the innkeeper asks his wife at one point, "Are you going to stand there staring out the window with your mind closed or are you coming back to the table to listen more?" She replies, "You need me back at the table in order to talk? I'll come back to the table then!"
The result is a charming work of fiction that will please even the crustiest agnostic. A retelling of the New Testament narrative of Jesus' birth brought winningly to life by well-chosen details.
c/o Thomas Nelson Publisher
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781449774530, $13.95 (PB), 174pp, www.amazon.com
All of my Christian life I've known people to whom God has spoken directly. So when I was introduced to Kim Hilton's book, Closet Words, I jumped right in reading. It isn't a book that you want to hurry through - you need to read slowly and savor the Word of our Lord, given directly to Kim during her intense prayer times in that "closet." What a gift from the Lord to her and what a gift to us that she so willingly shared what He had spoken to her.
The messages in this book are for each reader - to encourage us to know we are not alone - God is with us, always.
In the back of the book is a study guide with room to write your own prayers and answers.
When Shmack Happens: The Making of a Spiritual Champion
21581 Vintage Way, Lake Forest, CA 92630Publisher
9780991303007, $14.99 (PB), 172pp, www.amazon.com
Cheryl C. Malandrinos, Reviewer
Vine Voice: July 31, 2014
I'll be the first to admit sports autobiographies don't usually capture my attention. But this isn't your typical sports autobiography. While you might find stories from athletes that thank God in the opening or closing pages of the book, Neben's entire focus is how her faith has provided hope and peace despite the numerous setbacks she has faced. She gives credit to placing her life in God's hands for the successes she has achieved. Neben is a 2x Olympian, 2x World Champion, 2x Pan American Champion and 2x National. A list of her Race Wins is included in the final pages of the book. Each chapter is headlined by applicable verses from Scripture and the reader is treated to numerous black and white photographs.
When Shmack Happens is a powerful book that will inspire you to trust in the Lord for all things, no matter what comes your way.
I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.
Rebuilding Civilization on the Bible: Proclaiming the Truth on 24 Controversial Issues
Jay Grimstead and Eugene Clingman
Nordskog Publishing, Inc.
4562 Westinghouse Street, Suite E, Ventura, CA 93003
9780988297685, $19.95, 330pp, www.amazon.com
As Christians the foundation documents can be found in the bible. As time as passed, interpretations have evolved. In "Rebuilding Civilization on the Bible, is the work of the global Coalition on Revival's (COR), a network of theologians, pastors, and Christian leaders as an essential corrective for the Church and a weapon targeting 24 areas of false doctrine which to a large degree have been absorbed by the Church.
"Rebuilding Civilization on the Bible: Proclaiming the Truth on 24 Controversial Issues" is a fascinating read not only for the updated teachings but it also references areas that can be controversial from homosexuality to the eternal fate of nonbelievers. Dr. Grimstead has spent a lifetime studying these issues and the liberalization of their interpretation.
"Rebuilding Civilization on the Bible: Proclaiming the Truth on 24 Controversial Issues" is way to go back to theology of Christianity.
What's On God's Sin List for Today?
Wipf & Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781610972796, $14.00 (PB), 114pp, www.amazon.com
WHAT'S ON GOD'S SIN LIST FOR TODAY? by Tom Hobson is an interesting non-fiction/religion/spirituality. Filled with interesting answers to questions as to where things are in the Bible and what is from the old testament and what is the new testament. Which was law in the old testament and which is on God's sin list today. It examines issues such as sex, gambling, alcohol, adultery, and many, many more things. A very interesting and informative book. A great research book. If you enjoy learning more on religion, and spirituality I would suggest you read this title. Received for an honest review from the publisher.
Man's Rejection of God: Who's Responsible?
Author: RL Keller
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781490821481, $17.95 (PB), 200pp, www.amazon.com
Cheryl C. Malandrinos, Reviewer
Vine Voice: May 22, 2014
It's tough to think our behavior is pushing people away from Christ instead of drawing them in, but I'm certain I'm guilty of it at times. At first, I thought Keller's book would be an accusatory look at today's Christians. It's not.
Though there are definitely stories--some real, some fictitious--about Christians behaving badly, Man's Rejection of God: Who's Responsible? goes so much deeper by explaining how important it is for us to assess and reassess our relationship with God to be sure our actions aren't turning people away.
The author discusses atheists, agnostics, and cults. He compares Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam to Christianity. Keller tackles the hot topic of homosexuality and the often difficult task of forgiving those who treat us poorly. The book also talks about our words and how we use them, referring to portions of the Books of James and Proverbs for insight.
There is so much to be learned in Man's Rejection of God: Who's Responsible?. I feel it has been a blessing to me and will also bless others. Most importantly, it is a layman's book, not one filled with theological terms that are hard to understand. With his conversational style, Keller makes the subject matter approachable to everyone. He also willingly admits that he struggles with many of the things he talks about in the book.
If you are looking to revitalize your relationship with God and learn how you can more effectively draw others to Him, Man's Rejection of God: Who's Responsible? is a book you should take a look at.
I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.
Unlocking Your Spiritual Greatness
c/o Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781304948670; $17.99 (PB), 316pp, www.amazon.com
As a Christian I often wonder if I am living my faith enough. Life is a daily struggle and often we tend to question God rather than open a dialogue with the holy spirit.
In Unlocking Your Spiritual Greatness by Jim Greene, this book enables you to create a pathway to start that conversation. Greene shares in his work that you don't need any special words or formula, just simply start speaking to him as you would a friend.
The book is written in easy and simple language and not too preachy. It creates a template that empowers you to be able to not only learn about your faith but also focus on it a few moments each day. This book is a great resource for anyone who wants to stay grounded and is open to the spiritual greatness that lies just ahead on the winding road ahead.
Tactics, Trends and Traits Of The Enemy: Equipping the Believer to Fight Back
c/o B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9781462736355; $10.65 (PB); $27.86 (HC); Kindle $6.99, 190pp
There is so much to learn from Tactics, Trends, & Traits of the Enemy and it will get you to thinking about how we truly are members of God's Army preparing for battle against the forces of darkness. Gadson speaks from a position of strength and solid knowledge, but remains humble and encouraging throughout the book. Also incorporated are several appendices that include a study guide, the spiritual arsenal God provides for our fight against the enemy, and how not to give a foothold to the devil.
A superb book to be read together as a congregation or for a study group, Tactics, Trends, & Traits of the Enemy will help you identify the devil's work and inspire you to keep your eyes focused on the Lord. As Gadson reminds the reader in his conclusion, the devil is no match for the person who has surrendered his or her life to Jesus Christ.
I received a digital version of this book from the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.
Waiting For Heaven: Finding Beauty in the Pain and the Struggle
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403
9781490827865; $15.20 (PB); $28.66 (HC); Kindle $6.99; 228pp
I am a single guy and have no children but every time I see a mother with a lot of little ones I whisper to myself, "God Bless moms."
Waiting for Heaven is not a happy story, but it is one that will spread compassion and share the power of a mother. Heather Gillis shares her most inner pain in a work that is sure to help others. Heather lost her son after a few days but she opted to celebrate his short life in her philanthropic work and in this book.
Waiting for Heaven made me question "Why?". Why did this woman who already had two children, not be given chance to care for another human being which was sure to have been a value in our world? Who knows? There is so much we cannot comprehend about fate and what God decides for us.
I read the book in one sitting and was drawn by the caring voice strong voice of Heather and how she was able to turn her scars into stars. Truly a beautiful tale and proves that heaven can wait.
Scientific Integrity: 4th Edition
Francis L. Macrina
1752 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
9781555816612, $65.00, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Scientific Integrity: Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of Research" provides the essential content and skill-building tools for teaching the responsible conduct of scientific research. Scientific Integrity covers the breadth of concerns faced by scientists: protection of animal and human experimental subjects, scientific publication, intellectual property, conflict of interest, collaboration, record keeping, mentoring, and the social and ethical responsibilities of scientists. Learning activities and resources designed to elucidate the principles of scientific integrity include: Dozens of highly relevant, interactive case studies for discussion in class or online; Numerous print and online resources covering the newest research guidelines, regulations, mandates and policies; Discussion questions, role-playing exercises, and survey tools to promote critical thought; Documents including published rules of conduct, sample experimentation protocols, and patent applications. The newly updated fourth edition of "Scientific Integrity: Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of Research" responds to significant new mandates, policies, laws, and other developments in the field of responsible conduct of scientific research.
Critique: Informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, articulate, enhanced with the inclusion of seven appendices, and a comprehensive index, "Scientific Integrity: Text and Cases in Responsible Conduct of Research" should be considered a critically important, even mandatory addition to professional and academic library Science & Ethics reference collections.
Amir Hartman & Craig LeGrande
Pearson FT Press
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780133410778, $36.99, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: To survive and thrive, the modern business manager must know how to lead through adversity while preparing their companies for a new era of success. "Ruthless Execution" identifies the primary approaches and techniques that keep companies from falling prey to the myriad of corporate, economic, and market challenges faced by organizations around the world. In the second edition of "Ruthless Execution", business managers and executives will learn when and how to recalibrate the balance between performance and growth; how to define a coherent, tightly-drawn business philosophy that maps to specific actions; new ways to promote accountability and business alignment; and how to use performance metrics without burying people in meaningless trivia. Amir Hartman and Craig LeGrande expertly collaborate in "Ruthless Execution" to give practical advice on how to develop stronger critical capabilities for understanding and managing complexity. This fully updated second edition offers new techniques for thriving despite adversity and features new examples and cases illustrating the challenges faced by the modern global organization.
Informed and informative, "Ruthless Execution" should be considered mandatory reading for anyone with corporate responsibilities for protecting their company from competition and to succeed in a challenging and volatile local, regional, national, and international marketplace. This newly expanded and fully updated second addition is especially recommended for business school and academic library reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "Ruthless Execution" is also available in a Kindle edition ($21.49).
Researching Prospective Donors
Susan Summerfield Hammerman
c/o American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838912294, $72.00, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Individuals, not government sources or foundations, are the largest source of giving in the United States. Right now your community has individuals ready to become enthusiastic donors to your library. But how do you find the most likely prospective donors? Susan Summerfield Hammerman (a successful prospect researcher), gives library directors, library fundraisers, and library board members all the tools they need to research individuals and their wealth. "Researching Prospective Donors: Get More Funding for Your Library" describes how to identify and research prospects using existing or easy-to-find resources, including publicly available information on individuals' wealth and assets; spells out what information about a prospect is most important, such as previous charitable donations, hobbies, interests, and memberships in clubs or other organizations; provides worksheets to document findings so the research can be used effectively for fundraising; shows how to establish a confidentiality policy and securely store information on prospects; and includes an annotated bibliography of fundraising resources.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is practical and implementable, "Researching Prospective Donors: Get More Funding for Your Library" is a thoroughly 'user friendly' guide that should be considered mandatory reading by library boards, library staff, and 'Friends of the Library' group members. An invaluable instruction manual for library fund raising, "Researching Prospective Donors: Get More Funding for Your Library" should be included in the reference collections of all community, academic, private, and corporate libraries -- as well as university department Library Science curriculum supplemental reading lists.
Neuroanatomical Basis of Clinical Neurology, second edition
Orhan E. Arslan
6000 NW Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300
Boca Raton, FL 33487
9781439848333, $79.95, 520pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Neuroanatomical Basis of Clinical Neurology" enriches understanding of neurological conditions through a conceptual approach to neuronal circuitry. After an introduction to the developmental and cellular aspects of the nervous system, the book discusses in depth the morphology and internal organization of the central nervous system. "Neuroanatomical Basis of Clinical Neurology" examines the somatic and autonomic components of the peripheral nervous system, emphasizing nerve entrapments and neuropathies, while describing various dysfunctions by demonstrating the neuronal interconnectivity between higher and lower autonomic centers and the mediation of visceral reflexes. This updated and expanded second edition incorporates and highlights common and relevant clinical conditions. Topics cover include: Various forms of cortical dysfunctions, such as seizures, disconnection syndrome, coma, and dementia; The role of prefrontal cortex in behavior and attention, introducing the topic of autism; Up-to-date information on the auditory, vestibular, gustatory, and limbic systems; The neurochemistry of the limbic system, memory and associated disorders, and the structural and neuronal circuitry of the hippocampal gyrus; Structural organization and associated pathways of the extrapyramidal system, demonstrating the neurochemical basis of movement disorders, and more.
Critique: "Neuroanatomical Basis of Clinical Neurology" by Orhan E. Arslan (Director of Advanced Neuroanatomy, Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida - Tampa) is an impressive, detailed, and documented work of scholarship that is especially well organized and presented, making it very highly recommended for academic library reference collections and as a textbook for neuroscience curriculums. Recommended as well for general medical students and health care practitioners, it should be noted that "Neuroanatomical Basis of Clinical Neurology" is also available in a Kindle edition ($63.96).
Britain's Industrial Revolution
c/o International Publishers Marketing
22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
9781859362198, $32.00, 688pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The industrial revolution in Britain changed the world. The images we all share of steam engines and locomotives, smoke and smog, multi-story textile mills and regiments of working men and women flooding out of factory gates at the end of their shift are all so familiar that it is easy to forget how enormous, far-reaching and upsetting were the events and processes that brought us into this new, industrial age. Factories as we know them were invented here; mines were sunk to new depths; inventive and entrepreneurial minds sought to make things in new ways that were better, faster and cheaper; engineers harnessed water and steam power as never before to drive machinery and equipment in concentrated centers of production. Innovations were put to work in new types of building, by new types of people and organizations.
Alongside functional innovations such as these emerged entirely new ways of living. A flood of rural humanity swept into industrializing towns in search of work; people came to live in the shadows of the mills, the chimneys or the winding gears that in the minds of many contemporaries now enslaved them; patterns of life as well as work became tied to those of the machine. Society changed just as fundamentally as did the economy. And the landscape changed forever too: rural valleys filled with water-powered workshops and mills; canals were cut through fields, and along their banks sprang up yet more factories; in towns the air was thick with smoke from hundreds of chimneys. Towns sprawled; production boomed; British exports dominated trade. Britain became 'the workshop of the world', its inhabitants 'a manufacturing people'. Contemporaries were shocked, thrilled and fascinated.
Critique: "Britain's Industrial Revolution" by academician and historian Barrie Triner is an exceptionally well written, ably presented, and expertly documented account that is as accessible to the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the industrial development and contributions of Great Britain, as it will prove informed and informative for use as curriculum text for academia. Very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should be noted that "Britain's Industrial Revolution" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781859361757, $40.00.
Premature Termination in Psychotherapy
Joshua K. Swift & Roger P. Greenberg
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9781433818011, $69.95, 216pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As many as one in five psychotherapy clients drop out of treatment before they have made meaningful progress. Even experienced therapists cannot promote positive change in clients who don t complete the full course of treatment. "Premature Termination in Psychotherapy: Strategies for Engaging Clients and Improving Outcomes" by Joshua K. Swift (Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Alaska - Anchorage) and Roger P. Greenberg (Distinguished professor and Direct of the Psychology Division, State University of New York) presents eight evidence-based strategies for preventing premature termination. These strategies help therapists: Establish the ground rules and orient the client to the role of both therapist and client; Openly discuss termination; Work with clients preferences; Educate clients about how change occurs. Additional strategies are described to strengthen clients hope and motivation and evaluate progress throughout the course of therapy.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Premature Termination in Psychotherapy: Strategies for Engaging Clients and Improving Outcomes" is enhanced for psychotherapy students with eighteen pages of References and an eight page comprehensive Index. Informed, informative, pragmatic and practical, "Premature Termination in Psychotherapy: Strategies for Engaging Clients and Improving Outcomes" should be considered mandatory reading for both aspiring and practicing psychotherapists and is an essential, core addition to academic library Psychology/Psychiatry reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
The Word Ghost
Allen & Unwin
9781743318263, A$29.99, (paperback), 368pages.
History of the Rain
978 1 4088 5203 3, A$27.99 (paperback), 358pages.
Bloomsbury Press (USA)
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620406472, $26.00, 368pp, www.amazon.com
These two books are very different and yet there are many similarities between them, the most important being that both are fine examples of imaginative, innovative and absorbing story-telling. The narrator of each is a young intelligent girl whose love of literature and poetry is essential to her everyday life and seeps naturally into her stories.
Rebecca Budd, in The Word Ghost, is on intimate terms with Jane Austen and often calls on her for company: "Come on Jane, let's see what Rochester's up to" she commands and drags Jane out into the countryside in spite of that "awful old shawl" Jane insists on wearing. She reads novels and poetry and both help her negotiate her path through her teenage years, especially when a strange ghostly poet, Mr Algernon Keats, "second cousin to the great man himself", comes to inhabit the wardrobe in her bedroom.
Ruth Swain, in History of the Rain is a little older than Rebecca and she has what she calls "Something Amiss, Something Puzzling, and We're Not Sure Yet" which confines her to her bed in the attic. Because of her bed-ridden state, and because she is "exactly too clever by half, sufferer of the Smart Girl Syndrome" and has inherited her father's books, she is prodigiously well read. She tells stories which are filled with words, phrases, characters and bits of information borrowed from Irish myth and folklore, Dickens, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Virgil and many others she had come to know through her voracious reading. Information and pages from The Salmon in Ireland, a book written by her grandfather, are also part of her stories.
If this literary aspects of these two books sounds daunting, it is not. It is part of the story-telling and is a delight rather than a hindrance.
My copy of The Word Ghost arrived with a flyer from The Argus which had headlines announcing Ghost Sightings in Brightly and smaller articles about Important Changes for Churchgoers and Poetry Workshops!. The date is September 2nd 1973, at which time Rebecca is a teenager with all the usual passions, anxieties and energy of a typical teenager. However, by setting Rebecca's story-telling in this historical time Christine Paice (her creator) avoids having to deal with the sort of teenage stresses which seem to dominate modern novels. There are no mobile phones or computers, no texting, dysfunctional families, sexual excesses or harassment. Instead, her book is delightfully old-fashioned. Rebecca's family are close and loving but with the usual family quirks and the usual family squabbles. Time flows more slowly. Letters are written, telephone calls are expensive and rarely made, and the pill is still a recent invention to which teenagers do not have access. As well as many strange happenings, Rebecca experiences love, disillusion, change and disappointment, but she is a resilient young woman and, most importantly, her reactions to the ghostly Algernon Keats and his trouble-making sister are matter-of-fact and remarkably tolerant. She even lends him her eiderdown.
Rebecca is a likeable and often witty narrator, and her family come to life through her accounts of their lives, and so does Mr Algernon Keats who is a remarkably life-like and likeable ghost, in spite of his poetry being infinitely inferior to that of his famous relative. Altogether, The Word Ghost is a light, often funny, and very enjoyable book.
Niall Williams' History of the Rain, which has been long-listed for the 2014 Man-Booker Prize, is a book full of stories told by Ruth Swain. Unusually for me, Ruth's accounts often made me laugh out loud. Although she is clearly very sick and is well aware that she soon may die, her stories are full of life and full of dry and funny observations about everything around her. Like the river by which she lives, she meanders into tales of her ancestors, her family, her neighbours, her Irish home in Faha, County Clare, and other by-ways. Her great-grandfather's bequest of "the Swain Philosophy of the Impossible Standard" is tracked through a family history of pole-vaulting, salmon-fishing, and obsessive poetry writing, to her own attempts to read all of the "three-thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books" left to her by her father.
Ruth is Irish and has an Irish irreverence for pretensions, a clear eye for quirks of character and the ability to express her pithy and sometimes poetic views in simple, often colloquial, terms. The stories she tells, too, are the sort which circulate in a small community where everyone knows everyone else. The Swains, according to Ruth's Nan "are queer fish", but so are their neighbours. Uncle Noelie, for example, goes to bed in his funeral suit in case he dies in the night; Eamon Egan is so fat that Nan says "he wouldn't walk the length of himself"; to avoid paying the license fee, Danny Carmody moved his TV into the garden so that he could say he didn't have one in the house.
Ruth has some interesting things to say about writers and poets, too. Writing is "a kind of sickness. Well people don't do it". As for poetry: "I've read dozens of interviews and accounts that basically come down to How Poets Do It and the truth is that they are all do-lally and they're all different". Then there are the ambulance men, Timmy and Packy who discuss a World Cup of Writing in which Yeats is "centre midfield", Paddy Kavanagh "goalkeeper", and "your one that won the prize" and who turns out to be Anne Enright, is "centre forward".
"We tell stories", says Ruth, "to heal the pain of living". And not all her stories are happy. Her brother's story, her father's story and her own story, all are tragic in different ways. But, as she notes, "Alice Munro says the whole grief of life will not do in fiction", so her stories shine with love, laughter and hope.
Ruth's creator, Niall Williams has a poet's sensibility as well as a poet's voice. He writes in a way which is full of poetry and he manages to balance joy and woe in this novel superbly.
The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable
10 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3SR, United Kingdom
9781780744032, A$19.99 (paperback), 391pages, www.oneworld-publications.com
This is a history book for those who like a good story. There is a mystery to solve, there is plenty of drama, suspense, passion, gossip and sex. And it is all true.
Author, Carol Baxter, is a historian. As a "historical detective", she has conducted assiduous research but, as she tells us in her endnote, she wanted to offer readers "the immediacy of fiction without fictionalising the narrative". So, her characters speak the words they spoke in the newspaper and police reports about the murder of Sarah Hart on New Year's Day 1845. They are described from those reports, too, but Baxter interprets their emotions and brings them to life.
The role played by the recently invented electric telegraph in identifying John Tawell as the possible murderer of Sara Hart, frames the story but it is the subsequent police investigation and the amazingly eventful life of John Tawell which is the subject of the book.
Tawell was a remarkable character. Son of a Norwich shopkeeper, he grew up taunted for his red hair and his squint, but he used his intelligence and, eventually, his Quaker credentials as an honest and trustworthy citizen, to become a successful commercial traveller in London. In 1841, however, he was arrested and charged with possessing and forging banknotes. Through the intervention of his Quaker fellows, he avoided the death sentence and was sentenced, instead, to transportation to Australia for fourteen years. In Sydney, by describing his former occupation as "druggist", he was assigned to work in a hospital dispensary. He was shortly arrested for theft and sentenced to spend one year in the notoriously harsh penal settlement at Newcastle, north of Sydney. Later, because his skills were in demand, he was assigned to various other medical-related tasks and, after five years, he managed to acquire his ticket-of-leave. He then worked towards a conditional pardon and, when that was granted, he used his acquired knowledge of medical matters to began trading in medical supplies. He prospered, opened the first pharmacy shop in Sydney, became a wealthy gentleman landowner and a respected and philanthropic citizen, and he established Sydney's first Quaker Meeting House.
In 1829, with a free pardon, he returned to England and set up house with his sickly wife and the youngest of his two sons. A voluntary return to Sydney followed but in 1838 he returned to England for good. By the time of his arrest for the poisoning of Sara Hart, his wife and both his sons had died of tuberculosis and Tawell was living with his second wife and their two children in Berkhampstead. He was sixty two. The trial and its revelations became a sensation and its repercussions were wide.
Baxter describes it all in vivid detail. But be warned, the front cover of the book, which proclaims it to be "A True Tale of Passion, Poison & Pursuit", indicates the melodramatic nature of Baxter's story. This is also reflected in her writing, partly because she culls descriptions from newspaper reports of the time but also because her own prose often mimics them for dramatic effect: A steam train enters Paddington Station with a "demented scream"; a stage-coach "barrels into town" with "horns blaring and horses foaming": we find ducks "kipping" by a frozen pond; and at one point Quaker Tawell is described as "the rabid teetotaler".
Never mind, it is all good fun, and it does capture the spirit of the time. But it makes some of the chapter-heading quotes from such serious sources as Sturgeon's 'Lecture on Electricity'; George Fox's journal; Cicero's speeches; and the Bible seem out-of-place. And the extensive scholarly bibliography at the end of the book comes as a surprise. Baker, who is an academic historian, clearly felt the need to point out that in spite of the often sensational nature of her material this is still a serious historical document.
In My Mother's Hands
Elizabeth "Biff" Ward
Allen & Unwin
83, Alexander Street, NSW 2065, Australia
9781743319116, A$29.99, (paperback), 280pages.
Biff Ward was born in 1943. She grew up in a family with an academic, communist-leaning father whose early career was severely damaged by ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) surveillance reports, and a mother who suffered from delusions and paranoia. In this vivid and disturbing memoir, she re-lives times of anxiety and terror but also of joy and, ultimately, of resolution.
From early childhood, Biff and her younger brother were aware that their parents' first child, Alison, had drowned in her bathtub at the age of four months. They were told that their mother had fainted whilst bathing her, but the subject was never discussed and the grave never visited. The blue enamel bathtub in which their sister had drowned remained in the home and progressed from being their own bath, to a backyard plaything, to a washing basket and then to a wood-box beside the stove. The family silence around the baby's death also never went away but this was not the only family secret. Biff's mother's increasingly distant behaviour, her alarming obsessions and her self-harm were ignored as far as was possible and were also never discussed. She coped well with routine tasks around the house but became increasingly erratic and violent as the years passed.
As a child and a teenager, Biff had no way of understanding her mother's mental condition. In the 1940s and 1950s the only possible description was 'nervous breakdown' but no-one ever mentioned that. Grandparents and other family members lived long distances away, and Biff never knew how much other people were aware of her mother's odd behaviour. When she tried to talk about it, no-one wanted to respond. So, the family lived with silences and developed coded communications between themselves to avoid awkward facts.
The family situation was tense and, on at least two occasions, dangerous. Biff's father, however, resisted any sort of medical intervention, which might have meant confining her mother to a mental home. Instead, he held the family together, created as normal a social life as possible and, at the same time, managed to study and forge a successful career for himself.
Biff Ward writes lovingly about her father but this memoir is as much her own story as it is that of both her parents. It becomes, too, a picture of Australian society in the 1950s and 1960s; of the effects on the family of having a father known by small-town neighbours for his Communist sympathies; and of what it was like to grow up, study and have a social life in small, close-knit, country communities. First, in Canberra, where her father was one of the first Ph.D students at the Australian National University, and before the development of Lake Burley Griffin and the huge National buildings around it; then in Armidale, a small country city on the New South Wales Tableland north of Sydney, where he became a history lecturer at the University of New England in 1957.
We lived, she says, "in a heaving sea of madness and sadness". Yet there were joyous times, too - the excitement of acquiring their first car and the long drives on unmade country roads singing the folk-songs her father was collecting as part of his Ph.D. research; childhood holidays at the beach with her brother; the freedom of her first years at university; falling in love; peace-movement and feminist activism and close friendships. Biff's life, however, remained overshadowed by her mother, even during the years when she never saw her or spoke to her. After recognising some of the effects of her childhood traumas, she suffered her own terrors, ran away from everything and threw herself into political activism. Years later, her mother suddenly appeared on her doorstep at 7am one morning with her over-loud voice, giggles, "glittering eyes, no-teeth" and damaged hands hidden in white gloves. "This is your grandma", Biff told her three goggle eyed children, who had known nothing of this grandma's existence.
In the last part of the book, Biff tells of her reconciliation with her mother, never an easy process but one which she undertook with courage and love. She writes of her own research into mental illness, schizophrenia in particular, which was the condition with which her mother was eventually diagnosed. She tells, too, of her father's life, and of his final years and death, after which she discovered that a court case had ensued following Alison's drowning. Only then, was she able to read the coroner's report and a full account of the accident in which her sister died, and, at the same time, she learned about Post Partum Psychosis (now often known as post-natal depression) and the fact that it "occurs more frequently in women who have a psychotic illness - bipolar or schizophrenia - or a predisposition towards such an illness".
In this book, Biff draws to no conclusions about her mother's condition but writing this moving and well-written memoir has clearly served a healing purpose for her and has given her and her brother some answers to questions which have haunted their lives. To write such an honest, blunt and revealing picture of the lives of her mother and father, however, also exposes her family and others who knew, worked and socialised with them to public scrutiny. In particular, Biff's father, Russell Ward, who was not only at the centre of a public attention when his early loss of an academic appointment at the University of New South Wales because of blackballing by ASIO was revealed in the media, but also because he became a very distinguished academic, author of a classical study of Australian history, and is still well-remembered by his many colleagues, friends and students. For those who knew him, even briefly, it can feel like tasteless voyeurism to read the most personal, intimate and private details of his life.
My Salinger Year
9781408855508, A$27.99 (paperback), 249pages.
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307958006, $25.95, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Joanna Rakoff begins this memoir by describing "all of us girls", all setting off from apartments for offices in midtown New York, Soho or Union Square and all "clad in variations on a theme - the neat skirt and sweater redolent of Sylvia Plath at Smith". This reference to Plath is interesting, because just as Plath described her sojourn as guest editor at the magazine Mademoiselle in her novel, The Bell Jar, Rakoff's memoir is about her own experiences whilst working at the old and venerable literary establishment, the Agency. Her style, too, has a smooth, gossipy, story-telling interest, similar to Plath's in The Bell Jar, although she has a very different story to tell.
After dropping out of her studies in London in order to return to America to pursue her writing career, Rakoff was fortuitously offered a job as personal assistant to the managing editor of the Agency. On her first day, she discovered that the Agency was rather old-fashioned - card-files, fax machine, a very recently acquired photocopier but no computers at all. She needed to learn to use a Dictaphone and revert to typing on a dusty Selectric typewriter, and she had to work out many things for herself. Only with regard to a client called 'Jerry' was her boss forcefully instructive. Many people, she was told, would ask for his address or phone number, or to be put in touch with him. "Never, never, never" was she to tell them anything; never call him, never write to him, and never chat to him on the phone. Only as she left the office that night and noticed some J.D. Salinger books in a bookcase near the door did realisation dawn: "Oh, I thought, that Jerry".
Although she does have some telephone conversations with Salinger, and does eventually meet him, this book is more about her own life at work and at home than it is about him. Curiously, she only read Catcher in the Rye and Salinger's other books for the first time towards the end of her year at the Agency. At one point, however, after reading many of the letters addressed to Salinger, letters which he required the Agency to intercept and answer, she got tired of sending out the standard form-letter and began to adapt and extend it and make it more personal. The results were unexpected.
Rakoffs observations of her eccentric boss and of the other people she worked with are fascinating and, as she notes in the foreword to the book, she tells the truth, as best she can, based on things she wrote at the time and on interviews with the people she knew. She describes her social life, her friends, and, especially, her often strained and strange relationship with Don, the man she lived with. And her continuing attachment to her ex-boyfriend haunts her.
Rakoff's 'Salinger year', was very much her own rite-of-passage: a time in which she developed her own skills as a literary agent and a time when she learned lessons about her own needs, loves and ambitions. She left the Agency, in the end, to become a writer. And a fine, interesting and entertaining writer she is.
The Incorrigible Optimists Club
9781848875418, A$29.99, (paperback), 624 pages
This book begins in 1980 as two men, who have not seen each other for nearly twenty years, meet in the Montparnasse cemetery at the burial of a famous writer. We are not told the name of the writer, but clearly it is Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre plays no significant part in the book but he and Joseph Kessel, both of whom were known for their Communist sympathies, turn up later in the book as a members of a chess club which consists mostly of men who have fled from communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
I did not understand this first chapter until I re-read it after finishing the book. It prefaces an account of the life of French/Italian teenager, Michel Marin, in the years between 1959 and 1964. This was a time when the 'cold war' and the 'Algerian question' dominated French media, and the eruption of Rock-and-Roll into the lives of teenagers was the cause of much parental concern. Michel, who is the narrator in this book, does not like school, he cheats at maths, and he likes to spend his spare time at the baby-football (table football) tables in the local cafes. He is a super-star at baby football.
One cafe, in particular, the Cafe Balto, becomes his favourite haunt and he begins to get to know the older men who meet in a curtained off part of the cafe to play chess and, sometimes, to conduct heated arguments. It is the past lives of these men, especially the experiences of those who escaped from Communist Russia and who are now struggling with problems which this has caused in their current lives, which make up the core of this book. Michel's own life, and his friendship with some of these men, also fills many chapters.
The author, Jean-Michel Guenassia, is a well-regarded and experienced screenwriter and he know how to tell a good story. This, his first novel, was awarded the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens, and it attracted accolades from Le Figaro, Lire and La Parisienne which now decorate the book's back cover. La Parisienne called it "A debut, a doorstopper, a masterpiece": the first two, it certainly is, and some chapters are exceptionally vividly written. For me, however, it is not a masterpiece.
Although I was gripped by the stories of some of the characters, these are told in chapters which alternate with Michel's own accounts of his teenage trials and angst over problems with school, family, his photography hobby and his love-life. I have to admit that I began to skim through some of these chapters, because I was more interested in knowing what was happening to other people. Michel's relationship with his older brother, Frank, and with his brother's girl-friend, Cecile, was one story I really wanted to follow. Frank runs away from home to join the fighting in Algeria and then deserts and returns to live an undercover life in Paris. Frank and Cecile, however, vanished from the book and left me wanting to know more about what happened to them. The same thing happens with other characters.
My feeling, in the end, was that too many stories were woven into the book and that it was too long. Other readers, however, have clearly thought differently. And the translation from the French, by Euan Cameron, is excellent.
9781783780150, A$27.99, (paperback), 237pages.
The New Press
38 Green Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10013
9781620970201, $24.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Vasantha is fifty-six years old and has retired from the Coconut Corporation in Sri Lanka. He is not inclined to sit around and do nothing, so he has bought a battered old Toyota van and started his own business. "If you are on the move there is always hope", he says. Which in some ways he believes is true of the island itself.
Sometimes he just wants to drive, but mostly he ferries other people around the island. The passengers he tells us about in this book are dazed "heat-seeking" tourists, Dutch developers, "home seeking desperadoes from the diaspora", "Iranian New Age anglers" and, on one occasion, he is flagged down by an armed soldier to pick up an ex-army brigadier whose own transport has broken down. Armed soldiers, along with policemen, are top of the list of people he does not argue with. In his van, however, he is the boss. He controls the air-conditioning and the conversations. And he likes to encourage his passengers to talk - "What we talk about on the road" he says, "is what you feel deep inside. You don't get that deep if you just sit still, whatever the yogis, the barbers and the dentists say".
Vasantha is a philosopher, full of home-spun wisdom, very perceptive about his passengers' foibles and about the state of his country. Sri Lanka's history and politics are complicated. Sepala, "a guide from the ministry" accompanying four Chinese executives who hire Vasantha and his van, sums up the history thus: "Thirty years of war, sixty-five years of independence, three hundred years of colonisation, two thousand five hundred years of Buddhism...". But the recently ended civil war in Sri Lanka and the 2004 tsunami, have left heavy legacies, and Vasantha see and feels the effects of both as he drives around.
"So much is kept off limits these days", he comments: places not to be strayed into, secret guilts, things "we carefully forget". But there are always dreams, and Vasantha is an optimist with a clear-eyed view of the world and a wicked sense-of-humour. Listening to a wife complaining about her husband's snoring, he thinks of recommending sound-blocking headphones such as those some of his passengers wear so that they "manage to avoid any pollution of their inner world with the din of local colour". Some of the stories he recounts are funny, some are devastating, but he is a delightful, interesting and articulate companion. In him, Romesh Gunasekara combines humour and sadness, and through him he manages to convey lightly and unjudgementally the feelings of people living in a country where the legacy of war, with its terrors and suspicions, is still very real.
I enjoyed this book but I was left thinking about the many people in many countries in the history of the world, past and present, who have had to come to terms with living with the memories, and the continuing suspicions, engendered by civil war. The many who have lived through devastating natural disaster, too. As Vasantha knows, the past cannot be wiped from memory, and it must not be forgotten. He knows that to get from one place to another, from the past to the future, "you need a road. And a road is nothing if it does not connect". So, before he forgets what he saw, felt, thought and believed on his journeys north and south, before he drifts "into oblivion", he drives and he tells us stories, because they are "what make us what we are".
Ann Skea, Reviewer
Braha: A Tale of Innocence & Intrigue
9781494943370 $14.95 juliemangano.com
Although Braha: A Tale of Innocence & Intrigue is a novel, it's based on the real-life trials and travails of the Volga Germans - German settlers who accepted Catherine the Great's Manifesto, offer to settle land near the Volga River in Russia. The terms appeared quite favorable for their time, including immunity from military conscription, and the right to keep cultural and religious practices. Emigrating to Russia appeared at first glance to be a way to escape crushing poverty, or even the threat of starvation; emigrating to the Americas was also an option, but often too expensive for desperately poor peasants. But as the narrative of Braha unfolds, it reveals the extreme hardships that the Volga Germans suffered throughout the decades. The land was harsh and resistant; ruthless invaders raided and kidnapped settlers; the Russian military eventually went back on the agreement and conscripted soldiers; and lack of cultural mixing (intermarriage was taboo) fueled generational distrust between the Russian and Volga German populations, with the latter having second-class citizen status. Braha explores what it means to call a strange and hostile land home, and to attempt to support a cultural community despite all that conspires against it, as well as the individual perspective of simply trying to survive. An unforgettable saga from cover to cover, highly recommended.
Faraway Roads is a novel set in the dusty California desert. Private investigator Jack Chase travels these roads, narrowly avoiding one mishap after another. His cases become more an more inexplicable - dealing with drug money found on a downed plane, tracking the shooting of an ultralight pilot over the high desert, the search for a missing young couple in the Mjoave, uncovering the truth behind an 1800s gold legend in the Borrego Badlands, and much more. As much a vivid portrait of beautiful yet unforgiving land as it is a chaotic tangle of people at cross purposes, Faraway Roads is captivating and highly recommended.
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
c/o Bohlsen Group (publicity)
9781458216373 $17.99 www.abbottpress.com
Told in first-person perspective, Rough Waters: The Life of a Naval Intelligence Officer is a novel based upon author Doctor Jac's experiences growing up and serving in the Navy. Though fictional, Rough Waters comes alive with realistic intensity, as it traces the rise of a Navy intelligence officer who infiltrates China, leads a mission in Vietnam, and fights corruption within his own ranks. A page-turner to the very end, Rough Waters is especially recommended to connoisseurs of naval and military adventure stories.
Timothy K. Lynn
Carpenter's Son Publishing
c/o Maryglenn McCombs (publicity)
2817 West End Avenue, Suite 126-274, Nashville, TN 37203
9781940262192 $24.99 www.maryglenn.com
Spiral-bound to lay flat or have its cover wrap around for ease of use, Next Step: How to Start Living Intentionally and Discover What God Really Wants for Your Life is a consumable workbook designed to aid the user in following in a Christian, faith-based system for living in accordance with God's plan. Based around the four pillars of Faith, Self, Family, and Life's Work, Next Step encourages the user to write in designated "journal pages", answering questions such as "What is God telling you?" Beautiful color photography enhances this inspirational resource, suitable for individual or small group study. Highly recommended.
Willis M. Buhle
The Presence: Experiencing More of God
Alec Rowlands, Forward by Jim Cymbala
c/o Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414387246, $15.99, 272 Pages, www.amazon.com
Pastor Alec Rowlands, Westgate Chapel, Edmonds Washington, invites readers on "a quest to discover what it means to experience the awesome, yet very tangible presence of God" in his September 1 release, The Presence. Such spiritual encounters with the living God, he writes, "produces changed hearts, resulting in changed lives that bring glory and praise to God."
He speaks with the authority of personal experience because he had such an encounter when he was eleven-years-old at his father's South African church in Durban, South Africa. That unforgettable encounter with the supernatural presence, power and glory of the "untamed Lion of Judah" changed his life and influenced everything he thought and did from that point forward.
However, he warns, such happenings are never a substitute for faith, nor are they to be "elevated above scripture" or sought after for the experience alone. Yet, he also believes "our highest purpose is to know, experience, enjoy and glorify God," because that is the "spiritual birthright" of those "reborn in Christ."
How can God be enjoyed when for many Christians God remains a "distant, disengaged disciplinarian" and their salvation is viewed as merely "a change in status," writes Rowland. It's as if they have their ticket to heaven since they walked the aisle of salvation and have no interest in their spiritual birthright which is to "know experience and glorify God."
That describes an intimate, vibrant personal relationship which is what God wants with His children and what His children need according to Rowland. The seeming paradox is that pursuit of God's presence is both the "journey and the destination." Although "God rewards those who earnestly seek Him," Hebrews 11:6, Acts 17:27 such encounters only occur "in ways and times that God knows will be best for us and will advance his purpose in our lives," writes Rowland.
Because God is more than a "genie in a bottle" who grants wishes, He's a God of mystery and wonders who loves His people, who wants to be known and loved in return because "love" is a two-way street and "must be nurtured." Yet such encounters aren't common in churches across America. Which leads to a "growing hunger for God," notes Rowlands and dissatisfaction with the "Christian life" in general that's led to a decline in church attendance. This is also demonstrated by the rise in "nontraditional spirituality to fill the void." Yet Pastor Rowlands church is vibrant and growing.
Pastor Alec Rowlands compares our search for God's presence to that of "little kid playing hide-and-seek with a parent." No parent hides where they can't be found, parent's play games with their children from "a desire to love and be with their child." And that's a wonderful description of God's love for us.
In The Presence, Pastor Rowlands provides answers to questions about the availability of God's presence today through the help of the Holy Spirit. What is God's Presence? How can I experience it? How do I prepare for it? What should I expect and look for? Is it like Saul's Damascus road experience? What is God's purpose? In addition to learning more about the "boyhood experience" he's never forgotten. Encouraging and filled with practical advice, The Presence invites readers into genuine spiritual renewal and revival.
Painful Blessing: a Story of Loss, Recovery and Hope
Jill Krantz Viggiano
4900 LaCross Road, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497477087, $20.00, www.createspace.com
Painful Blessing, one family's true story of "loss, recovery, hope and faith" began March 27, 2008, the day after Gordon Viggiano and his wife, Jill celebrated Gordon's fifty-first birthday. Gordon's "consulting business was thriving" and their daughter Rachael, in the ninth grade and son Tommy, a seventh grader was sleeping in, enjoying the lazy days of Spring Break.
Gordon "had just closed a big deal" and Jill, now an active volunteer after nineteen years in commercial real estate was free to promote the charitable causes she believed in. "It was a beautiful moment in time," writes Jill. "I didn't think life could get much better."
However, that "beautiful moment in time" would only last until 3:00 am the next morning when Gordon woke her and said he "couldn't see out of his left eye." Fearing the worst, Jill "shot out of bed like the mattress was on fire." Then in his typical "low-key fashion" Gordon said, "it's like oozy globs are passing in front of my vision."
Although he seemed fine except for the "eye thing," Jill left a note on the kids bedroom door and took him to the nearest emergency room. While they waited for test and exam results they discussed medical costs since they only carried "major medical health insurance."
The ER doctor returned a diagnosis of potential "detached retina" and told them to call an ophthalmologist in the morning. Relieved, they returned home where Jill climbed into bed and tried to relax while Gordon finished in the bathroom.
She "assumed the worst was over" until she heard a thump followed by a thud, "then silence." She raced to the bathroom and found Gordon unconscious, "wedged between the toilet, the shower and the wall." He had suffered a massive stroke. Although not common at his age the impact would change their lives, devastate their finances and test their faith in every way possible.
The story of their struggle encourages others review of necessary information, such as what kind of health insurances do you carry and what are the limits? What are the passwords to financial accounts? Are bills paid by automatic deduct or made out and mailed? Is there a list of medications handy?
Jill's writing is painfully honest and authentic with an inspired message of hope that makes it a worthy read for anyone in the midst of crisis, especially for anyone recovering from a stroke.
Jill and Gordon's insightful presentation, My Brain has a Hole in it is now a part of Lake Oswego's Emergency Preparedness program because their experiences offers so much to anyone in crisis. Their dynamic story was also featured in The Oregonian, "Five years after the stroke."
For more information about stroke issues go online to Oregon Health & Sciences University Brain Institute What is a stroke? and the World Stroke Organization. 795,000 people a year suffer a stroke, a little known health crisis you need to know about.
Hope for the Caregiver
Foreword by Ken Tada
c/o Worthy Publishing
134 Frankline Road/Suite 200, Brentwood, TN 37027
9781617953828, $12.99, http://worthypublishing.com
Peter W. Rosenberger, Nashville radio host and 28-year caregiver for his double-amputee wife Gracie, releases Hope for the Caregiver, Tuesday, September 16. With authenticity and a "goofy sense of humor," he "condenses a lifetime of experience...into a lifeline of help for fellow caregivers," of which there are more than 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S.
When asked why his opinion matters, he writes, "everyone is entitled to an opinion." However, his decades long care of Gracie "trumps opinion" and gives him a "certain degree of authority" on the subject.
No one likes to suffer, yet some face a lifetime of suffering such as Peter's wife Gracie, who at age seventeen suffered a "car accident that devastated" her body and left her in chronic pain.
Three decades later, Gracie has undergone "seventy-eight operations that include multiple amputations and revisions by "sixty physicians in a dozen hospitals." Medical costs are now "cresting nine million dollars," he writes.
He's brutally honest about the emotional challenges of caregiving, from feelings of guilt, to discouragement, fear, isolation and loss of identity that taught Peter he must learn to care for himself in order to care for Gracie.
To survive the challenges of caregiving he devised a "sustainable care structure" that he writes about in this book. He begins with the "Delta Doctrine," a nugget of wisdom he credits a Delta flight attendant for. Then explains to the reader why "wait, water, and walk" gives him time to make "healthy and positive decisions in high-stress moments."
That's only one of many practical pieces of advice. The "qualifying" questions in chapter three, "A Different Perspective" are realistic and help to define the role of a caregiver when the "turbulence of caregiving hits."
1. Did you create the condition your loved one endures?
2. Can you cure them?
3. Can you control what is happening to them?
Your answers will tell you whether you need to read the book or not.
His insightful rendition of the "Caregiver's Prayer," inspired by principles from the "Serenity Prayer" affirms what caregivers realistically "can and cannot do" while the words remind readers that God is in control.
Peter's realistic approach teaches "reality can be a tough companion at times, but it's an honest friend" because reality accepts "what is" and works to make it better. The practical tools he offers have been tested in the fires of caregiving experience, which make this an invaluable resource and guide.
Peter and Gracie also founded Standing with Hope, a non-profit outreach that provides "artificial limbs to the people of West Africa."
Gail Welborn, Reviewer
The Seattle Examiner
James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316410632, $30.00, www.amazon.com
The Michael Bennett family is now out of hiding and Michael Bennett is back at work with the NYPD. This time there are several complicated plot lines that take the reader along for a great page turning read to the very end. Patterson and Ledwidge have always told great stories in the Bennett thrillers and "Burn" is a welcome addition to the series.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451467362, $7.99, www.amazon.com
"House Immortal" is the first in a new series of fantasy novels from Devon Monk. Monk captures the reader from the first page where she introduces Matilda Case one of the thirteen experiments creations known as the galvanized being. They are people who are immortal and are not considered to have any rights because they also are not considered to be human. There are many different ruling houses that are at war with each other and the galvanized beings. "House Immortal" like many great novels and movies of science fiction tackles many social issues and does it very well. Monk is off to a great start with this excellent tale of fantasy fiction.
Cut and Thrust
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399169113, $26.95, www.amazon.com
Stone Barrington is back in another tense thriller that takes place at a political convention in Los Angeles. Also here are characters from the Will Lee novels and attorney Ed Eagle, who is also a delegate to the convention. The story is interesting up to a point but becomes a ho hum boring story because the ex wife of Ed Eagle is again plotting ways to kill him. This story has been done so many times by Woods that by now it is just plain boring. "Cut and Thrust" at best is a fair Barrington novel.
Luke Jensen Bounty Hunter Bloody Sunday
William W. Johnstone with J. A. Johnstone
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
9780786033533, $7.50, www.amazon.com
Every so often a western novel is the perfect remedy for something totally different to read. Johnstone is one of the best authors of this genre and men's action adventure and "Luke Jensen Bounty Hunter Bloody Sunday" is easy to see why. Jensen is on the trail of a woman who has been accused of killing her wealthy husband back east. Jensen finds her and gets involved in her life and much more in a first class western that is page turning excitement of gun battles and tense western entertainment. Though Johnstone is no longer with us, his works are being completed in the same style by author J. A. Johnstone.
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
97807860346591, $7.99, www.amazon.com
As "Quake" opens in New York U.S. Attorney Nick Dykstra is beginning to prosecute one of the terrorists involved in the 911 bombing. As the trial begins an earthquake hits New York, changing everything in a few minutes. Now this case takes a back seat to everything as the city struggles with the devastation while the terrorist somehow survives, escapes and sets his sights on destroying the lives of Dykstra and other New Yorkers. Douglas masterfully has readers turning pages in this tense nail biting suspense thriller that is a great entertaining novel.
Gunnar Angel Lawrence
G. A L. Publishing
9781478187448, $13.50, www.amazon.com
The court system is on trial in Orlando Florida in the page turning novel "Fair Play." The tale begins with the killing of a judge in the garage of his home and continues with a missing police officer, and later an attorney. All have something to do with the court system of Orlando and the story races along with many interesting characters and conflicts that are resolved at the end. The old promotional statement to advertise Florida long ago "The rules are different here" applies to "Fair Play" that is a first class legal thriller by a new talented writer.
Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction (9781484024898)
Sizzling Style: Every Word Matters (9780989378970)
Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak (9780989378949)
Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life (9780989378901)
Perfecting Plot: Charting the Hero's Journey (9780989378925)
Red Sneaker Press
c/o Babylon Books
$6.99 each, www.amazon.com
All five of these titles are part of The Red Sneaker Writer's Book Series that are a great resource for any new writer to read and learn many different tricks of the trade. Bernhardt, who is a bestselling author of legal thrillers, gives many insightful tips on how to write better by the use of dialogue, character development, and many other aspects that starting out writers often forget. He also has many different quotes from fellow writers that also are very helpful as well as good and bad examples for novice authors to learn the craft of writing. The Red Sneakers Writers Books Series is one of the best series because there is so much information that is easy to follow and learn how to be a better novelist.
It Doesn't Have to Be That Way
Laura A Wasser
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250029782, $25.99, www.amazon.com
It doesn't have to be that way how to divorce without destroying your family or bankrupting yourself. Laura A. Wasser a well known divorce attorney uses her expertise to advise people when faced with divorce on how to handle the situation. She shows many of the cases she has been involved in and how bitter and childish many of her clients have been. She tries to teach that there are better ways to handle divorce than what we normally see. 'it doesn't have to be that way how to divorce without destroying your family or bankrupting yourself" has many interesting stories by an attorney to represents so many clients through the darkest days of this life changing event.
Cosby His Life and Times
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451697971, $29.99, www.amazon.com
Whitaker has written a very detailed documentation of Bill Cosby that adds to a person's enjoyment of the comedian in "Cosby His Life and Time," Whitaker traces Cosby's beginnings to his military service to a very recent concert appearance. He tells about how and why Cosby was picked for the TV show "I Spy," the friendship of Cosby and Robert Culp, the many different shows of Cosby and his routines and how they began and Cosby's pledge to not insult and go dirty in his comedy because he felt unlike other comedians that it was not needed, are just a few of the things Whitaker delves into. "Cosby His Life and Times" is the most complete look behind the scenes of an American icon.
Advice to My Daughter
Andrew John Robinson
Cricket Cottage Publishing
409 Hoffner Avenue # 127, Orlando, Florida 32812
9781484157589, $9.95, www.amazon.com
As Andrew Robinson's daughter enters into adulthood, he as a writer father gives many pieces of advice to her to live by in the book "Advice to My Daughter. There are many different subjects the author covers of guidance from lots of sources to his daughter. "Advice to My Daughter" is a perfect gift for any occasion and the knowledge here is not just for daughters but for anyone who wants to lead a better life.
Kacey and Humphrey Adventure of the Shrimp Bully Bowl
Dr. Charles Stevens Illustrated By Lance Haskins
Legacy Book Publishing
1883 Lee Road, Winter Park Fl 32789
978193752600, $19.95, www.amazon.com
"Kacey and Humphrey Adventure of the Shrimp Bully Bowl" is book that can be read on two levels. As a kid's book of an adventure story it is fine as a fun story of what happens to a tuna that is a pest to other creatures of the sea. The underlying lessons the book teaches are the wrong ones for children to learn. One of the messages is that you can do devious things to accomplish your goal of stopping someone from bullying. A better lesson to be learned is that "what goes around comes around" We see this kind of activity in adults when they are faced with a divorce situation. Kids, like adults, should learn that games to solve situations should not be used to resolve a problem. The artwork by Lance Haskins adds to the story but "Kacey and Humphrey Adventure of the Shrimp Bully Bowl" should have been just a fun book for children to enjoy, with no message.
The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963
97815796233623, $28.00, Hardcover, 264 pp, www.amazon.com
Lola Wicks, introduced to readers in "Montana," returns in the second entry in the series. In her mid-30's, she is now working \at a small daily newspaper in Magpie, Montana, a far cry from the years she spent as a foreign correspondent in Kabul and other war zones before being downsized from her job at a newspaper in Baltimore.
After three months, Lola is still dealing with the aftermath of the death of Mary Alice, her best friend, when first arriving in Magpie, "trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. At present, she is living with Sheriff Charlie Laurendeau in his small ranch just outside of town, problematical on two counts: For one thing, Charlie is half Blackfeet (and the town's first Indian Sheriff), added to the unethical complication of sleeping with a source, since her assignment is to cover events on the Blackfeet reservation. This being just the start of winter, it is twenty degrees below zero when Lola arrives at a crime scene, where the body of a beautiful young Indian girl is found in the snow
Lola, of course, and despite the fact that her frenemy, Jan, with the paper for 3 years, has the crime beat, feels compelled to investigate the death of the girl, Judith Calf Looking, who had probably frozen to death, especially when she discovers that she was just the first of a series of young girls who had gone missing from the reservation, many of whom had been drug abusers, over the last year, and only the first to have been seen since they had left. Her relationship with Charlie was a tenuous one, made only more so when Lola leaves Magpie for Burnt Creek, over the border in North Dakota, a town of 700 souls which had experienced a boom when fracking had taken over the area: people hoping to find jobs on the oil patch. Her only company on the trip is Bub, a three-legged hound with one brown eye and one blue, who had been Mary Alice's before Lola took him in. The author captures the Indian culture as well as the brutality of the prairie, especially in winter, where Burnt Creek "made her look fondly upon Magpie's ten-below, no-wind days . . .In Montana, the wind slammed snow against earth frozen hard as iron and then packed it tight enough to hold cattle on a surface so glazed and brittle that when the occasional steer broke through, it emerged with legs sliced and bloodied by the sharp edges."
As was "Montana, "Dakota" is a beautifully written, suspenseful and fast read, one I devoured in about 36 hours, and it is highly recommended.
St. Martin's Griffin
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250054531, $15.99/18.50CA, Paperback, 372 pp, www.amazon.com
After several standalone novels and four non-fiction books, Lisa Scottoline has gone back to her terrific Rosato & Associates series, as Mary DiNunzio, one of the all-female "Associates," is made a partner in the firm, joining Benedetto ("Bennie") Rosato as a boss in the successful criminal law firm, well-known as mavericks and for championing the underdog. But when their newest client is Allegra Gardner, the thirteen-year-old daughter (with a genius-level IQ) of a well-known and wealthy Philadelphia family, it presents more of a challenge than usual.
The eponymous accused in this instance is a man who has pleaded guilty to murdering Allegra's sister six years ago in what appeared to be an open-and-shut case, currently serving a long prison term. Allegra firmly believes he is innocent, and hires the firm to investigate and find out who really killed her sister, over the objections of her family.
I can vouch for the authenticity of the large and endearing Italian family with which Mary is surrounded, and they are just as supportive and loving as readers have come to expect, especially when the news of her having been made partner comes on the heels of her announcing that she and her long-time love, Anthony Rotunno, are going to be married. (Unlike the first of these two milestones, Mary is just a bit ambivalent about the latter one, after her husband, Mike, had been murdered many years before when they'd been married for only a year. But she has no doubt of her love for Anthony, being just a bit uncomfortable about wearing the engagement ring.)
Allegra is a fascinating creation, and it's easy to see why the firm would take on such a daunting case. The interesting plot and the winning and wonderfully humorous writing only get better as the book goes along, with a jaw-dropping twist and an unbeatable ending.
Just What Kind of Mother Are You
c/o Grove Atlantic
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122810, $14.00, Paperback, 320 pp., www.amazon.com
This stunning debut novel from Paula Daly is a breathtaking tale of ostensibly normal lives torn asunder. Lisa Kallisto, who runs an animal shelter, lives in a small village holding 260 houses in the English Lake district. Just a few days before Christmas, her best friend's thirteen-year-old daughter disappears, and the only thing more horrifying to Lisa is the fact that it appears to have been her fault. The author makes palpable the guilt which wracks the overworked and overwhelmed mother of three. And apparently this is not the first adolescent girl in the area to have been kidnapped, nor is she the last. As Lisa says: "There is nothing as bad as a missing child. Nothing at all."
The investigation is headed up by D.C. Joanne Aspinall of the CID. Both women are in their late thirties, and the author focuses much of the book on these two women, wonderfully well-drawn, as are the other characters. The book is not as dark as one might expect, dealing as it does with such perverted acts. It is certainly suspenseful. Not edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, perhaps, at least until Day 4.
As the tale comes to a close, what came to mind was my mother's old adage: One never knows what goes on behind someone else's closed doors. And everyone has a secret (or two). I read this novel in just over 24 hours, and it is highly recommended.
Truth Be Told
Hank Phillippi Ryan
c/o Tor Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765374936, $24.99, 28.99 CA, Hardcover, 400 pp., www.amazon.com
In a plot which uses the housing crash of recent years, various facets of which are still in today's headlines, as a jumping-off point, Jane Ryland returns in this newest entry in the wonderful series by Hank Phillippi Ryan. After having been an award-winning investigative TV reporter before she lost her job a year ago for refusing to give up a source, Jane is now working as a reporter for the new online video news department of the Boston Register. That job remains somewhat tenuous in today's endangered world of print newspapers. The opening pages find Jane at the site of a foreclosed house in the course of researching the housing crisis and the forced evictions of the mostly middle-class homeowners when, bizarrely, a woman's dead body is found inside the house.
But things become much more complicated, as we learn much more than we ever wanted to about REOs ("real estate owned" properties), which have become a huge business for banks and the real estate agents with whom they work, and those who work the system for their own profit.
Liz McDivitt, magna cum laude MBA, is the first Customer Affairs Liaison for the bank for which she works, of which her father happens to be president. She has developed her own plan for helping those who have fallen into the desperate position of having their homes foreclosed, despite its illegality. She has told no one about it, not even Aaron, who handles the bank's foreclosed properties, who she has started seeing socially, and who has his own secrets.
A second story line has a man, Gordon Thorley, coming into the police station to confess to a notorious crime committed almost twenty years ago. Detective Jake Brogan, one of the cops hearing his story, does not believe it. That killing, of a 17-year-old girl, had haunted Jake's grandfather, the then Police Commissioner, up to his dying day, and it is very personal for Jake, 14 years old at the time, who is determined to find out the truth. The reader enters a bizarre world of false confessions, whether manipulated, coerced, or the product of a disturbed mind. The tale unfolds over the course of only several days, with p.o.v. alternating from Jane and Jake's worlds as well as Liz and Aaron as well as Peter Hardesty, attorney extraordinaire, and Gordon Thorley, who was either a liar or a murderer.
Jane is still somewhat ambivalent about her romantic involvement with Jake, given the unwritten rule that one should not be 'involved' with a source, which Jake certainly is and has been, their respective professional obligations a constant challenge.
We are told that though "nothing mattered except what was true," it is also the case that "sometimes you had to lie to get to the truth." The plot is so convincing that one can only hope, as one continues quickly turning the pages, that this not an instance where "fiction is indeed the lie that tells the truth." Another excellent entry in the series, and one which is recommended.
In the Morning I'll Be Gone
By Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781616148775, $15.95, Paperback, 305 pp, www.amazon.com
The final book of The Troubles Trilogy brings back Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). As the book opens, in Belfast in the early '80's, there is "a mass breakout of IRA prisoners" from the notorious Maze Prison (a maximum security prison "considered to be one of the most escape-proof penitentiaries in Europe"), among the prisoners his boyfriend friend, Dermot McCann, an IRA master bomber. Despite his somewhat sketchy history with the police force, which he was forced to leave for various "crimes and misdemeanors," he is offered his old job back with a promotion to detective inspector if he assists MI5 in the recapture of McCann, for which purpose he is reinstated and assigned to Special Branch. The search for his old friend leads to a locked room mystery involving the death four years earlier of a young woman named Lizzie Fitzpatrick, the solution to which is the price he must pay for a lead on McCann's whereabouts.
In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, January 30, 1972, when a dozen civilians had been shot dead while marching for equal rights, it is a matter of necessary routine for residents to check under their cars for bombs before entering. The book contains plenty of fascinating Irish history (both that of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic) coupled with some Gaelic phrases, the whole completely charming. Equally so the protagonist himself and his eclectic musical taste (in what he considers to be "the worst year in popular music for about two decades"), e.g., Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," Elvis, Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms, Led Zeppelin, and Leonard Cohen.
The Ireland of this book is one where a recommended form of baby-rearing involves "the slightest wee dash of Irish whiskey in the bottle . . . for a good night's sleep," where there's a bounty on the lives of Irish cops, where three of the most popular ways out of the RUC is murder, suicide or cirrhosis, and where "police stations on the South Armagh border were future finishing schools for alcoholics and suicides with the added frisson of being shot or blown up on foot patrol." I missed the first two books in the trilogy, unfortunately, which I will try to correct in short order. OTOH, next up for this reviewer is Mr. McKinty's "The Sun is God" - can't wait!
The Sun is God
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228
9781616140687, $15.95, Paperback, 239 pp
Having just read the latest in this author's Detective Sean Duffy novels, and loved it, I was greatly looking forward to his most recent book, and was not in the least disappointed. Although the setting is as different from 1980's Ireland as possible, this book is equally terrific, with funny and original writing that makes for a terrific read.
Since I couldn't summarize the plot any more efficiently, I quote from the back of the book: "Colonial New Guinea, 1906. A small group of mostly German nudists, known as the Cocovores, live in extreme back-to-nature existence on the remove island of Kabakon. Eating only coconuts and bananas, they purport to worship the sun. One of their members has recently died, allegedly from malaria. But an autopsy in the nearby capital of Herbertshohe raises suspicions of foul play."
The governor of that capital city appoints retired British military police officer Will Prior to investigate the death, so he travels to "tranquil Kabakon, one of the safe, forgotten islands that lay between New Britain and New Ireland in the deep and ancient waters off the Bismarck Sea." A very real island, as it happens (the author includes notes on its history in the early days of the 20th century as well as the WWII era), as is the village of Herbertshohe, where even the servants have servants, and where "the day belonged to man, but the night belonged to the things that creeped and crawled and flew from tree to tree in the dense, ancient, primordial jungle." And the mysterious death that is at the center of the book was real as well.
When Prior arrives, he finds the present-day inhabitants of the island (including, unexpectedly, three women) are all quite odd, and possibly mad. Prior notes that one of them, a medical doctor, is thought to be about 55 years old, "which is possibly ancient in the fever latitudes." The investigation proceeds along inventive lines, and the result is thoroughly satisfying. The book is, as was the author's prior novel, highly recommended.
Along Came a Demon
Nordic Valley Books
9781449590840, B002HWSVIM, ebook price: $0.99 US, 204 pages
The paranormal genre is big today. Along Came a Demon is a great addition to the genre. Tiff Banks sees and can talk to dead people. She is currently making a living helping the local police solve murders by talking to the dead victims. She is afraid to tell the police how she exactly comes up with the clues to the murders.
A ghost appears in Tiff's front yard asking for help. She died in unusual circumstances and is worried about her son. When Tiff asks the Sheriff about her death, she is told it was by natural causes and that she didn't have a son. Tiff looks into the death and runs straight into supernatural beings trying to find and possibly kill the boy and her for investigating the death. The Sheriff assigns a new partner for her investigation and she knows he is one of these supernatural beings, which she calls demons. Is he trying to help her in her search for the missing boy or kill her to keep the boy hidden from the world?
Along Came a Demon is a well written fantasy with a solidly created world. It can be ranked as high as any of the popular fantasy books released by the major publishers. It would be an easy recommendation at the current mass market paperback price of seven dollars. It is a steal for a dollar. Any Sookie Stackhouse fans feeling left out with the ending of the True Blood series need to download a copy of Along Came a Demon now.
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
9781480170407, B0098QJQR0, ebook $3.47, 228 pages
Jet is a surprising book in many ways. Unlike many contemporary action shoot-em-ups both the timelines and the storylines are actually remotely possible to occur in the real world. It is a refreshing change not to be forced to accept unnecessary flights from reality by an author and still enjoy a nonstop worldwide action adventure with ruthless bad guys, spies and corruption. Travel between locations across the world takes days, and not the hours of some books. The bad guys are not omnipresent and impossible to hide from... Jet proves that it is possible for a contemporary author to write stories in this genre that have all of the nonstop suspense of any other tale and still follow the boundaries of reality.
Jet is a Mossad assassin who has faked her death to retire from Israeli Intelligence. Jet is trying to live a simple life in Trinidad when a professional hit squad tries to kill her. She escapes leaving a trail of dead bodies. She has to return to her past, as a Mossad assassin, to find out who is trying to kill her and eliminate the threat. Her journey travels across the world as she tries to find out who is behind the attack while dogging an army of professional killers trying to track her down. All she wants is to get her simple life back but to do so she has to confront the demons from her past.
Jet is one of the best action shoot-em-ups. It has a breathtakingly fast storyline matched with just enough reality to submerse the reader into the tale without forcing impossible flights into fantasy. With its reasonable price, it is a must read recommendation for the action junkie and a highly recommended introduction for those wanting to explore this genre for the first time.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
A Filly for Laura
Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC
127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, Oklahoma 73064
1628542683, Print Edition $8.99 US
B00I51XD5K, Kindle $7.99 US
A Filly for Laura follows a young eight year old girl who lost her parents and now lives in a foster home with her brother. Having a hard time dealing with the loss of her parents, Laura is withdrawn and unhappy. When her foster Dad gives her the responsibility to take care of a pregnant mustang named Mae, Laura begins to change.
As a debut title for Ashley Hotter, A Filly for Laura showcases this young author's talents. The story is well-crafted, skillfully illustrated, and delightful. It is written from Laura's point of view, and Hotter did a wonderful job evoking emotion through her carefully planned words. The story is short, only 24 pages total; therefore, the pace is fast, making this a quick read for a child.
This book is great for all elementary-aged children. Additionally, it would make a great gift for a child dealing with loss and depression because the theme is about finding happiness after a tragedy. Overall, I enjoyed reading this story with my children and I would highly recommend it to other parents looking for a children's book with deeper meanings.
A Zoo in the Castle
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
149937643X, Print $8.99 US
B00K3DWGME, Kindle $2.99 US
Today, my youngest children and I had the pleasure reading A Zoo in the Castle by Andrea Carrera. This interactive book asks the readers to help the main character, Mia, find her lost animal. After going through Mia's zoo, we discover an empty cage. Then the kids have to guess what kind of animal is missing by the clues given.
I read this with my one year old and four year old, and it is an understatement saying they loved this story. Throughout the pages, my kids squealed with delight as we went from page to page. Ms. Carrera does a wonderful job with her cute animals and adorable illustrations. When we were finished, the kids wanted to read it again and again.
I would recommend this book to any parent looking for a quick read for their children.
Giggle Goes to the Moon and Other Stories
B00KK6FBBC, $0.99 US Kindle, 19 Pages, www.amazon.com
Absolutely adorable! Giggle Goes to the Moon is a fun story laced with good morals and memorable characters. From a trip to the moon to a magical adventure, Giggle proves she is a small ghost with a big heart. My children and I had a blast reading these stories. And as a Mom, I really enjoyed the underlying themes. The first story follows the theme of acceptance. Giggle meets a ghost that is a different color. Although she is curious, she does not discriminate against her new friend. The second story presents a character with physical disabilities. It is a light hearted story full of possibilities and positive attitudes. The third story features the theme of helping another feel better when they are sick. Overall, these sweet stories are a great additional to any child's bookshelf, or, in this case, Kindle Library.
Lynn Schiffhorst tells each tale in a precise, fast paced manner. All the fluff has been eliminated, making this collection a well-executed, well-crafted work. Giggle Goes to the Moon is one of many books created by the author. And it surely does not disappoint.
Hi, My Name is Bobo. (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader)
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
1497362210, Print $10.99 US
B00J7QJPJ0, Kindle $1.50 US
Hi, My Name is Bobo by James Gordon is a cute memoir. Each scene is written from the child's point of view and immediately draws the reader in by peppering the pages with references to famous pop culture figures and images of familiar family dynamics. He brings an innocence to his words by asking the questions we all wondered as children, such as why it is okay for adults to engage in behaviors they tell their children to refrain from doing. Additionally, the author shares his childhood pictures which helps the readers connect personally with the dialogue.
My children loved this story because they could picture themselves in the same scenarios, like hanging out with their siblings, going to church, and watching some of their favorite superhero characters. And they loved the interesting way James Gordon wrote each scene.
This story was endearing, and it was great getting a glimpse into the author's life. It will leave the reader reminiscing about their own childhoods, sharing those memories with their children, and smiling for hours afterwards.
Jaclyn M. Bartz, Reviewer
Changing the Subject
K. Merinda Simmons
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212622, $54.95, 200pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Changing the Subject: Writing Women Across the African Diaspora", argues that, in first-person narratives about women of color, contexts of migration illuminate constructions of gender and labor. These constructions and migrations suggest that the oft-employed notion of "authenticity" is not as useful a classification as many feminist and postcolonial scholars have assumed. Instead of relying on so-called authentic feminist journeys and heroines for her analysis, Simmons calls for a self-reflexive scholarship that takes seriously the scholar's own role in constructing the subject. The starting point for this study is the nineteenth-century Caribbean narrative The History of Mary Prince (1831). Simmons puts Prince's narrative in conversation with three twentieth-century novels: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Gloria Naylor's Mama Day, and Maryse Conde's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. She incorporates autobiography theory to shift the critical focus from the object of study - slave histories - to the ways people talk about those histories and to the guiding interests of such discourses. In its reframing of women's migration narratives, Simmons's study unsettles theoretical certainties and disturbs the very notion of a cohesive diaspora.
Critique: Enhanced with the inclusion of twelve pages of Note, a six page bibliography of Works Cited, and a comprehensive Index, "Changing the Subject: Writing Women Across the African Diaspora" by K. Merinda Simmons (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Alabama) is a seminal study of impressive and exceptionally well documented scholarship that is as informed and informative as it is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Very highly recommended for academic library Literary Studies and Black Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists, it should be noted that "Changing the Subject: Writing Women Across the African Diaspora" is also available in a Multimedia CD edition ($14.95).
How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun
c/o Harbour Publishing
PO Box 219, Madeira Park, BC, Canada, V0N 2H0
9780889712935, $19.95, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The twelve short stories comprising "How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?" presents updated and whimsical new takes on what it means to be Canadian. Lau alludes to the personal and political histories of a number of young Asian Canadian characters to explain their unique perspectives of the world, artfully fusing pure delusion and abstract perception with heartbreaking reality. The title of this outstanding anthology refers to an interview with Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, who when asked about the Shanghai Sharks, the team that shaped his formative sporting years, responded, "How does a single blade of grass thank the sun?" Lau's stories feature the children and grandchildren of immigrants, transnational adoptees and multiracial adults who came of age in the 1990s--all struggling to find a place in the Western world and using the only language they know to express their hopes, fears and expectations
Critique: Engaging, rewarding, entertaining, and over all too soon, "How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun" documents author Doretta Lau's extraordinary talents as an imaginative and original storyteller. Very highly recommended reading, it should be noted that "How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Falsecards: 2nd Edition
Master Point Press
331 Douglas Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5M 1H2
9781771400107, $21.95, 188pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In bridge, a 'falsecard' is a card that is played in attempt to deceive one or more players at the table. The use of a falsecard strategy is not unethical. You can falsecard as much as you want, although prudence is invariably the golden rule for success. The only type of falsecarding that is banned is purposeful falsecarding that a partnership has agreed to use in certain situations. "Falsecards" by bridge expert Mike Lawrence is the definitive book on (legally) pulling the wool over your opponents' eyes. There are times at the bridge table when playing a misleading card is essential if you are to have any chance of an optimum result. This new edition of a classic bridge book from Mike Lawrence includes a number of ideas that are new since it was originally published. Skill Level: Intermediate / Advanced. Revised and updated for the first time in 20 years.
Critique: Mike Lawrence is a master at the game of Bridge and has won three world titles and eighteen national titles. Several of his books on Bridge are considered classic instructional manuals. Very highly recommended for personal and community library collections, this new and expanded edition of "Falsecards" continues to reflect Lawrence's more than forty years of experience and expertise and should be considered a "must" for anyone who is dedicated to improving their Bridge game performance.
How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Small Farm
Julie Fryer & Melissa nelson
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
9781601383303, $39.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the number of small farms operating in the United States dropped by more than 75 percent according to the US Department of Agriculture. But, recently, there has been a major resurgence in these family operated, outdoor businesses that has made them both financially viable again and underrepresented. The world of small farm businesses is being bolstered by a surge in interest by health conscious individuals looking for organic, locally grown products. This, along with growing food needs in developed and developing countries, makes your potential business very viable. However, knowing how to develop that business effectively can be very hard. "How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Small Farm" was written for aspiring farmers who are looking to start their own small farm business. Readers will start by learning what the basics of a small farm entail what they will need, how their lives will change, and what they can expect from the government, their neighbors, and living with plants and livestock. Readers will learn how the farmer s lifestyle is different non-farm life and how to start building a farm plan and evaluating resources before making any decisions. Readers will learn how to get help for their plans and what good farming principles, followed by the top farmers in the world are. The nature of the soil, working in the soil, and the essence of crop rotation are outlined in detail to help neophyte farmers make more targeted decisions with their crops. Those new to farming will also learn how to use green manure and cover crops to protect the plants and the environment at the same time. Readers will learn the basics of nitrogen and legumes, livestock feeding, and weatherproofing along with planning their farming business and marketing their goods and services. Reader's will learn how to set new goals and grow their farming business as well as how to identify target markets and to market within a given niche instead of trying to reach too broad of an audience. Readers will learn the basics of selling farm products and finally how to manage a farm, including the necessary information you need to hire employees, maintain machinery, and keep a farm up to date with new technology.
Critique: Comprehensive, superbly organized and presented, informed and informative, practical and offering a cornucopia of experience based recommendations and instructions, "How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Small Farm" should be considered mandatory reading for anyone wanting to create and operate a small farm based business. Of special note is the inclusion of a CD-Rom containing all the forms presented in the book, as well as a pre-written, editable business plan in a Microsoft Word format. Very highly recommended for community library collections in rural communities (as well as urban cities), it should be noted that "How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Small Farm" is also available in a Kindle edition ($27.68).
Dickinson's Fascicles: A Spectrum of Possibilities
Paul Crumbley & Eleanor Elson Heginbotham, editors
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212592, $69.95, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Dickinson's Fascicles: A Spectrum of Possibilities" is the first collection of essays dedicated exclusively to re-examining Emily Dickinson's fascicles, the extant forty hand-crafted manuscript "books" consisting of the roughly 814 poems crafted during the most productive period in Dickinson's writing life (1858-1864). Why Dickinson carefully preserved the fascicles despite her meticulous destruction of many of her early manuscript drafts is the central question contributors to this volume seek to answer. The collection opens with a central portion of Sharon Cameron's 1992 book that was the first to abandon the until-then popular search for a single unifying narrative to explain the fascicles, inaugurating a new era of fascicle scholarship. Eight prominent Dickinson scholars contribute essays to this volume and respond vigorously and variously to Cameron's argument, proposing, for instance, that the fascicles represent Dickinson's engagement with the world around her, particularly with the Civil War, and that they demonstrate her continued experimentation with poetic form.
Critique: A fascicle is a bundle or a cluster. A compendium of truly impressive scholarship organized into ten chapters, each comprised of a seminal article by a knowledgeable contributor, and ranging from Sharon Cameron's 'Dickinson's Fascicles'; to Domhnall Mitchell's 'The Precincts of Play: Fascicle 22'; to Alexandra Socarides' 'Managing Multiple Contexts: Dicinson, Genre, and the Circulation of Fascicle I'; to Susan Howe's 'Coda from My Emily Dickinson'. Enhanced with copious Notes, a list of contributors, and Index of First Lines, and Index to letters (including poems cited as letters), and a General Index, "Dickinson's Fascicles: A Spectrum of Possibilities" is a significant and highly recommended contribution to academic library Literary Criticism reference collections in general, and Dicksinson's Studies supplemental reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Dickinson's Fascicles: A Spectrum of Possibilities" is also available in a multimedia CD format ($14.95).
The Dangers of Kissing and Diet Coke
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781491814147, $16.95, 198pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: What is wrong with Mitzi's head? It all began in 1999 when a cat howling outside woke her up. Shocked, she realized the howls weren't coming from a cat, but from her! Soon the loud nightly animal-like sounds were accompanied by major motor movements. She was sent to 'Psych' but her 'tics' only escalated until Mitzi was placed on an antipsychotic which turned her into an emotional zombie and created devastating side effects. In 2010 she quit taking her meds and reunited with her first love after a forty-eight year absence. Goldie's kisses lead to a virus which results in a headache that never goes away. Mitzi muddles through the morass of doctors, drugs and treatments as she searches for causes to and cures from the strange neurological symptoms that plague her. Mitzi's medical mysteries and turbulent love affair are thought provoking and compelling, leaving the reader with a lot to decide.
Critique: There are two reasons for writing a personal memoir about the tribulations of one's life: to achieve some form of catharsis and to help others who might find themselves in similar circumstances. Mitzi Mensch is to be congratulated for her candor as she takes the reader on an intimate travelogue through a medical condition that had devastating consequences for her life and for those around her as she tried to deal with the medical community's responses. Informed, informative, and a thoroughly engaging read from beginning to end, "The Dangers of Kissing and Diet Coke: What Your Doctor Doesn't Know and Won't Bother to Find Out" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Health/Medicine collections. It should be noted that "The Dangers of Kissing and Diet Coke: What Your Doctor Doesn't Know and Won't Bother to Find Out" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99) -- and in this reviewer's opinion should be required reading by all aspiring social workers, counselors, medical and psychology students as it put a very human face on what might otherwise be only an intellectual discussion about a condition merely footnoted in medical textbooks.
One Wrong Move Can Kill
Elaine Fields Smith
Blazing Star Books
17141 FM 847, Dublin, TX 76446
9780982769027, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Elaine Fields Smith's extensive research into the 1991 Capital Murder trial of Genero Camacho, Jr. is reflected in her novel, One Wrong Move Can Kill. Her research is taken from interviews and the wealth of information she found in the actual court transcript. Her interest in this Texas crime was instigated by her wondering about a person she knew who was involved. Character names were changed to protect the identities of those who wished to remain anonymous. This true crime novel details crimes that are completely fact based where characterizations, backgrounds and dialog are the tools Elaine Fields Smith used to create this hair raising and disturbing tale. This novel takes you to the places where the various crimes took place and makes you feel as if you are there with the culprits and cops.
What happens when a drug deal goes bad? Mayhem ensues. When a dealer does not pay the narcotrafficker for drugs he sold, he and his family are put into dire jeopardy. There is the essential chase by all involved and the final catch. Then, the trial.
You don't want to miss this exciting story, whether you were in the North Texas area when it happened and you want to read about what you missed or if you were not there and just like true crime novels.
Elaine Fields Smith is an author/publisher living in Central Texas. A non-tattooed lady motorcyclist, dog lover, and horticulturist, she, even after all these years, still drives a fast car and loves to go ridin' around.
She describes herself as "a Texas native born to Missouri and West Virginia hillbillies, my roots run deep. Friends are very important to me and play a pivotal role in my writing..." She lives in Central Texas with a husband of more than 32 years, four dogs, two cats and 82 acres, life is good!
The Star Giver
Ginger Nielson's Children's Books
278 Sand Hill Road, Peterborough, NH 03458
9780991309337, $18.95, www.amazon.com
There is nothing as sweet as a child who asks questions about the world around him or her. "Why is the sky blue?" "Where do babies come from?" are the two that immediately come to mind. In this case, Little Bear wants his mother to tell him where the stars come from. It gives her a chance to tell him a Native American folktale that will entertain him as well as relate a fascinating story.
With beautiful l illustrations done in Native American colors, Mrs. Nielson illustrates the story, as it unfolds through the word of Mother Bear and the imagination of Little Bear.
The Star Giver holds the stars close until night, when it is time to release them, then waits until morning to finish his task. You will love sharing this story with your children at bedtime, as well as any other time of the day. And she tells you to look for the "secret on the last page of this book". What is it? You need to get the book to find out.
From her website: "Ginger Nielson lives at the top of a hill, near the edge of a forest in semi-rural New Hampshire, USA. There is a magic wand on her desk, a dragon in her basement, and a tiny elephant in her studio. Everything else is nearly normal." Sounds like a great place for her imagination to run rampant through the wonderful, imaginative stories that she illustrates, whether that of her own or another writer.
A Death in Vegas
White Whisker Books
9780983632993, $14.95, 180 pages, www.amazon.com
The only certainty about a Christopher Meeks novel is that the readers' senses will be delighted with his originality, superb writing, warmly sympathetic characters and clever plotting. A Death in Vegas neatly fits in the cozy mystery genre and becomes literary fiction in the hands of this deft wordsmith.
Patton Burch, the president of BenBugs, wakes up to a very bad day in A Death in Vegas. The demand for organically produced foods has fueled the demand for natural pest control giving rise to numerous companies selling "beneficial insects" to clients that include individual hobby gardeners who buy the odd Ladybug packets to large scale commercial farms and nurseries. Patton has a booth at a major Las Vegas Convention and Trade Show to promote and sell his wares while looking to secure financial backing. To attract customers, his business partner and wife Tess hired by phone from a reputable agency a dazzling cutie model, asthmatic Culinary Arts student Chatterley Langstrump, to dress us as a ladybug. The tiny French maid's costume embellished with red dots set off by red stockings, towering black platform shoes, complete with wings and antennae made the well-spoken girl look like a film star which effectively drew a crowd of buyers. Exhausted after a long day of making pitches, Patton generously invited the model to dinner. The next morning, he finds the girl lying dead under the suite's air conditioning unit. His world crumbles as the death is ruled a homicide and with himself as the primary suspect. Tess assumes infidelity and threatens divorce. The situation becomes more complicated when Chatterley turns out to be a "Jane Doe" using a fake name.
Knight-errant Patton Burch has to uncover Chatterley's true identity and solve the murder before he loses his wife, freedom and business. He bolts from Las Vegas and drives to northern California to search for the truth with a nebulous trail that leads him from Santa Rosa to Sonoma County's Valley of the Moon and Boyes Hot Springs.
Patton Burch is another entry in the succession of likeable, capable and successful yet somewhat socially inept male protagonists' author Christopher Meeks has introduced in several novels. His realistically penned heroes are not bumblers but generally by their chosen singular occupations are outsiders who use their wits, ingenuity and determination to solve problems. A Death in Vegas, like previously read, dissimilar, Love at Absolute Zero and Blood Drama, left this reader wanting more books from this very creative writer.
Man in the Blue Moon
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
351 Executive Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781414368429, $13.99, www.tyndale.com
SOKY READS! Michael Morris' Man in the Blue Moon
Michael Morris shares his love of eccentric characters and native son gift for Southern storytelling with libraries throughout the United States while continuing to accumulate awards and gain readers. His magical novel Man in the Blue Moon, was selected for the 2013 tenth annual community "one book" reading event known as "SOKY READS!" in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Morris is a fifth-generation native of Perry, Florida on the 'forgotten' SW coast not far from Apalachicola who now resides with his artist wife in Alabama. Steeped in a rich tradition of oral history, he is the first person in his family to receive a college education and later earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Spaulding University in Louisville. Mentored by the brilliant Lee Smith with his education furthered by the tutelage of Sena Jeter Naslund, one of Louisville's most renowned author/educators, Michael Morris is poised to become one of the South's most celebrated contemporary authors. His first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass (2002), won the Christy Award for Best First Novel. Slow Way Home (2003) was named one of the year's best books by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The St. Louis Dispatch.
Although we were lacking a front porch, rocking chairs, and tall glasses of sweet tea, this interviewer enjoyed visiting with the author prior to his talk and book discussion held at the Warren County Public Library.
What was it like to have been chosen as the featured author for the 2013 SOKY Reads! event?
I was thrilled. This was the first time I've ever had one my books picked as the One Book One Community and I was just over-the-top.
How old were you when you received your first library card? Were libraries an important part of your childhood?
I think I was around nine when I got a library card. I didn't use it a whole lot. When I was home from college one summer, I was in the library and I just happened by this book that looked interesting. It was The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy and that book really spoke to me.
When did you choose to write professionally?
When I go to events like this one, that's the first question: "Did you always want to be a writer?" I wish I could say 'yes' but it's just not my story. My Mom and I left an abusive household and I lived next door to my grandparents. They had a huge influence on my life and helped raise me. They were great storytellers particularly my grandfather and that helped form this writing. At the time I would just see these stories as movies in my head.
Who was your favorite author when you began writing?
Lee Smith is one of my all-time favorite writers. I first found out about her when I was twenty-two, and working for a U.S. Senators' office in Tallahassee Florida. I came from this blue-collar paper mill community and thought I had to wash myself of my small-town roots. I had to talk like Bob Edwards or people would think I was stupid because I had a Southern accent. This particular morning I heard this voice which I can only describe as honey-dipped, reading about a weatherman reinventing himself from the rural past. It was Lee Smith. I went out and bought her collection of short stories and read everything she's written. I started writing when I lived in North Carolina and I went to every event she would do. When I started writing she agreed to read it and gave me the first quote I've ever gotten from an author.
Who are your current favorite authors?
I love Southern fiction. By my bed stand is a collection of Flannery O'Connor short stories, Eudora Welty. Clyde Edgerton is another favorite of mine, Jill McCorkle, of course Liz Smith, Pat Conroy. Janice Owens is another writer from Florida who grew up in the same area I did and she's an amazing writer.
Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?
I read both. If I'm in the middle of writing a novel, I stay away from reading fiction. I don't want to get influenced by somebody else's work when I'm knee-deep in it. I love memoirs, biographies, history, U.S. History.
Banned Book Week was Sept. 22-28, 2013. Do you have a personal favorite?
This topic really came home for me personally when a school district in Florida selected Slow Way Home as a school read and someone tried to stir-up controversy over a racial slur in the book. What happened in my case I think happens in a lot with Banned Books. She hadn't read the book and started instigating by pointing out sections to people who were aghast. When all this started unraveling the question was "Did you read it?" "Well, I read parts of it." In that novel particularly, the African-American female minister, Sister Delores, is the hero in that little boy's life. I never thought that my book would be involved in a controversy like that and it was an eye-opener.
Who was your mentor at Spaulding University?
Sena Jeter Naslund: she's a brilliant woman and writer as well as heads up the program. (Brief-residency MFA Creative Writing) It broadened my horizons as a writer with playwriting.
When did you become a full-time writer?
I still do contracting and consulting work for the pharmaceuticals industry. I keep a foot in the corporate world as well as the writing world and I teach workshops.
What lessons have your books taught you?
I think the theme that runs through all my books is that families are more than blood kin. I think that family is a broad definition.
What's more important: plot or characters?
I'm drawn to fascinating characters. If I'm reading something and the characters aren't defined I lose interest. I firmly believe you have to write what you want to read.
How do you balance your time?
It's a challenge. Often what I've heard from writers in classes or workshops is talk about the process and the craft but you don't hear a lot about the business side. At the end of the day, it is a business, and you're only as good as your last book as they quickly will tell you in the publishing world. You really do have to get out there and promote to get your book read and that's not easy to do. I've found that if the work is good the readers will come. Book clubs are fantastic; libraries obviously are a way to reach people. If someone likes the book I ask them to pass it on and spread the word.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished a manuscript, still tweaking it, but my agent has it right now. The way I see it, it's the Old South meets the New South. It's about an eighty year-old sheriff, the longest serving sheriff in Alabama who sees his life spin out of control.
How much did growing up in Perry, Florida influence your writing?
It's influenced my writing in every way imaginable. My grandfather was a native of a little town near Apalachicola, near Port St. Joe. We would go there on family reunions every summer and make that journey along the forgotten coast on I-98 and go through all these places that now I'm digging into and finding new discoveries for storytelling and research. I love going there because my history is there. I imagine my grandfather as a little boy walking the streets, and getting that delivery that turned out to be a man in a crate.
What is it about Southern literature that sets it apart?
That is a great topic... a bourbon conversation with no easy answer. I think it's a little bit of everything I've heard: Celtic tradition, storytelling, the heat, the fact that before air conditioning everybody was out on the front porch swapping stories. In my family, they weren't formally educated but they loved to tell stories and to entertain. I just think all this mixes altogether. We like to talk. At the end of the day, I mean we like to talk.
Linda Hitchcock, Reviewer
National Book Critics Circle
Sleep In Peace Tonight
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Meryl L. Moss Media Relations
9781250051974, $26.99, 368pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: It's January 1941, and the Blitz is devastating England. Food supplies are low, Tube stations in London have become bomb shelters, and U-boats have hampered any hope of easy victory. Though the United States maintains its isolationist position, Churchill knows that England is finished without the aid of its powerful ally. Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt's most trusted adviser, is sent to London as his emissary, and there he falls under the spell of Churchill's commanding rhetoric---and legendary drinking habits. As he experiences life in a country under attack, Hopkins questions the United States' silence in the war. But back home FDR is paranoid about the isolationist lobby, and even Hopkins is having trouble convincing him to support the war. As Hopkins grapples with his mission and personal loyalties, he also revels in secret clubs with newsman Edward R. Murrow and has an affair with his younger driver. Except Hopkins doesn't know that his driver is a British intelligence agent. She craves wartime action and will go to any lengths to prove she should be on the front line. This is London under fire, and it's only when the night descends and the bombs fall that people's inner darkness comes to light.
Critique: "Sleep in Peace Tonight" is an expertly crafted novel that brings the era of the London Blitz vividly to life as a backdrop to a deftly written novel that will rivet the reader's rapt attention with its memorable characters and interwoven plot of war time politics and the human condition in a world of chaos and national crisis. "Sleep in Peace Tonight" is especially recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Sleep in Peace Tonight" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.04).
Shadow Of Guilt
Linford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444819564, $20.99, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: It starts out as a simple mission to trace his kid brother, but Brad Caulderfield rides into trouble when he kills the brother of Marshal Seth Blevins. Charged with murder and pursued by the lawman, Brad has to run for his life. He faces further complications from Stella Goodnight, who is out for his blood when he fails to return her affections. And when his brother Lenny reappears, bearing bitter resentments, he is looking headlong into the face of his nemesis...
Critique: A deftly written novel replete with unexpected plot twists and turns, "Shadow Of Guilt" is a solid entertainment that never lets up from first page to last. This large print edition is particularly suitable to and recommended for community library collections and the personal reading lists of wester novel enthusiasts.
Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds: The Intrepid
Chuck Parsons & Donaly E. Brice
University of North Texas Press
PO Box 311336, Denton, TX 76203-1336
9781574415728, $29.95, 464pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: N.O. Reynolds (1846-1922) has remained somewhat a mysterious figure, his Texas Ranger career being overshadowed by such names as Frank Hamer, Sam Walker, and Bill McDonald. Historians Chuck Parsons and Donaly E. Brice bring the life of Reynolds back to the prominence he deserves and present a complete picture of the man who brought a greater respect for the law in Central Texas. Reynolds began as a sergeant in famed Company D, Frontier Battalion in 1874. He served honorably during the Mason County "Hoo Doo" War and was chosen to be part of Major John B. Jones's escort, riding the frontier line. In 1877 he arrested the Horrells, who were feuding with their neighbors, the Higgins party, thus ending their Lampasas County feud. Shortly thereafter he was given command of the newly formed Company E of Texas Rangers. Also in 1877 the notorious John Wesley Hardin was captured; N.O. Reynolds was given the responsibility to deliver Hardin to trial in Comanche, return him to a safe jail during his appeal, and then escort him safely to the Huntsville penitentiary. Even though mobs wanted to lynch Hardin, they were afraid to challenge N.O. Reynolds and his Rangers. Reynolds served as a Texas Ranger until he retired in 1879 at the rank of lieutenant, later serving as City Marshal of Lampasas and then County Sheriff of Lampasas County.
Critique: A brilliantly written and meticulously researched biography by the team of western historian Chuck Parsons and Donaly E. Brice (Senior Research Assistant, Texas State Library and Archives Commission), "Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds: The Intrepid" brings out of obscurity the life and times of a most remarkable man. A masterpiece of biographical scholarship, "Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds: The Intrepid" is enhanced with the inclusion of an Afterword by Stephen Reynolds Davis; two appendices (The Gentlemen in White hats -- The Men of Company E, Fronier Battalion; Texas State Historical Markers Relevant to N. O. Reynolds' Career); sixty-four pages of Notes; a twelve page Bibliography; and an extensive Index. "Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds: The Intrepid" is very highly recommended for community and academic library American Biography and Texas History collections, as well as to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history and personalities of the Texas Rangers.
Assault With A Deadly Lie
c/o University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299302306, $26.95, 190pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Successful professor Nick Hoffman finds his secure, happy, college-town life changed forever after a nightmarish encounter with police. But even when that horrible night is over, life doesn't return to normal. Someone is clearly out to destroy him. Nick and his partner Stefan Borowski face an escalating series of threats that lead to a brutal and stunning confrontation.
A novel of suspense set in the academic world, "Assault with a Deadly Lie" probes the disturbing psychological impact of slander, harassment, stalking, police brutality, and the loss of personal safety. What will Nick do when his world threatens to collapse? How can he reestablish order in a suddenly chaotic life? "Assault with a Deadly Lie" is the eighth installment of Lev Raphael's Nick Hoffman Mysteries, and propels the series to a new level of danger and intrigue as Nick and Stefan are catapulted out of their tranquil existence by shocking accusations.
Critique: A riveting great read for mystery/suspense fans, author Lev Raphael once again documents his impressive gifts as a storyteller, holding the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end with unexpected plot twists and surprise twists. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, for those to whom "Assault With A Deadly Lie" is their first introduction to the Nick Hoffman series, they will be highly motivated to seek out the earlier volumes as well. It should be noted that "Assault With A Deadly Lie" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.95).
Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration
Mark Adams, et al.
c/o Church Publishing Incorporated
1637 Beechwood Ave #1, Louisville KY 40204
Bob Todd Publicity
9780819228758, $18.00, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration" is comprised of an ecumenical examination of immigration issues drawn from engaging, first-person narratives. A group of bishops (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Methodist), all based along the US-Mexico border, found common ground to jointly address some key immigration issues, especially those being played out in the state of Arizona. The bishops worked together on behalf of local immigrant populations to address theological and pastoral concerns - and prayed for those whose lives were being directly affected. "Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration" grows out of their shared work and the relationships that developed among them.
Critique: The collaborative effort of Mark Adams, Kirk Smith, Minerva Carcano, Gerald Kicanas, and Steven Talmage, "Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration" is an especially well written, informed, and informative contribution to our country's ongoing national dialogue over immigration policies, practices, reforms, and their consequences both intended and unintended. Very highly recommended community library Contemporary Social Issues collections and to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in immigration issues, it should be noted that "Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.39).
L. Ron Hubbard
7051 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200, Hollywood, CA 90028
9781592123568, $9.95, 152pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Mat Lawrence's father is one of New York City's top gangsters, and he wants nothing to do with him or his criminal empire. When his gangster father is murdered Mat is only one to care about it. The last place Mat wants to go is back to New York, but that's where the killers are, and he won't stop until they're dead . . . or he is. And there's only one man who can help him track them down: his father's criminal attorney - the Mouthpiece. Also included are three of Hubbard's mystery short stories, 'Flame City', the story of one man's harrowing attempt to save his father and the city from a serial arsonist; 'Calling Squad Cars!', in which a police dispatcher goes to extraordinary lengths to bring down a gang of bank robbers after he is accused of working with them; and 'Grease Spot', the story of a former racecar driver, now the owner of a wrecking company, who plays fast and loose with the police.
Note: Originally published in the September, 1934, edition of "Thrilling Detective". That same year, as the youngest writer ever to serve as president of the New York Chapter of the American Fiction Guild, L. Ron Hubbard sought to promote greater accuracy in the writing of detective and mystery stories. To that end he invited the coroner to speak to the Guild members over lunch. He later recounted that "they would go away from the luncheon the weirdest shade of green." But, we can assume, they also went away better informed. Years later, expanding his studies in the area, Hubbard became a special officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.
L. Ron Hubbard
7051 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200, Hollywood, CA 90028
9781592122875, $9.95, 136pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Sheriff Kyle of Deadeye, Nevada has come to the city to give a report to his senator on the misdeeds of Nevada's filthy rich copper kings. But before he has a chance, he's knocked unconscious, later coming to alongside his senator - now dead, with Kyle's knife imbedded in the corpse. Kyle's got no alibi, no memory, and apparently doesn't have a prayer . . . unless he can find a way to outwit, outfox and outmaneuver the masters of deception and double-crosses. Also included along in "Killer's Law" are three of Hubbar's short story mysteries: 'They Killed Him Dead', in which a respected homicide detective solves a murder several times over, only to be proved wrong again and again, to the amusement of his fellow cops; 'Mad Dog Murder', the story of a patrol officer who dreams of joining the homicide squad, and finds that the ticket to advancement - and romance - may be a Pekinese dog; and 'The Blow Torch Murders', in which every criminal in town is eager to turn himself in . . . and the reason is a real killer.
Note: L. Ron Hubbard was born and bred on the western frontier and made his way east to explore and experience life in Washington, D.C. But unlike the sheriff in his story Hubbard enjoyed his time in the capital, where he went to college at Georgetown. He came to know the ins and outs of the city as well as he knew the arroyos and canyons of the west, giving him the kind of insights he needed to write stories like Killers Law.
Critique: L. Ron Hubbard was a master storyteller and one of the most prolific contributors to the 'Golden Age' of pulp magazines. What is fascinating is how well his stories hold up after all these decades after they first appeared. Galaxy Press is to be commended for bringing Hubbard's literary legacy to a whole new generation of appreciative readers. It should be noted that "Mouthpiece" and "Killer's Law" are both available in Kindle editions ($3.19).
Marie Rose, author
Susan Lee, illustrator
Indie Rose Books for Kids
9780692240410, $10.00, 34 pages, www.amazon.com
Hop on board and enjoy a journey through the galaxy on a rainbow rocket ship. Experience the colors of Saturn's rings. Visit with a few of Jupiter's many moons. Race with shooting stars. Share s'mores with strange little green moon men. Then glide back home again. Susan Lee's brilliant illustrations capture the wonder and amazement of space travel as vividly described by author Marie Rose. Boys and girls with active imaginations will love all the places "Zwoosh!" takes them.
Joan Holub, author
James Dean, illustrator
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
978-0545609685, $16.99, 40 pages, www.amazon.com
From dump trucks to excavators to cement mixers, backhoes and more, every big dad piece of construction equipment has a kid-size version working alongside him. The Mighty Dads show the little tykes how to get the job done. They also show them other important stuff like right from wrong, encouragement and cooperation. Holub's simple verse contains plenty of action words to keep the pages turning. Dean's cartoon depictions of heavy construction equipment are colorful and accurate. However he drew all of the eyes the same on everyone, so they lack any personality which seems counter to the message in the text. Holub provides the words and Dean provides the pictures. The only other ingredient "Mighty Dads" needs is dads to read aloud to their boys and girls.
Talks with Animals and Nature
Myriah Kristin Walker
Grandma River Press
9780615977591, $10.00, 108 pages, www.amazon.com
At the outset, Myriah Walker confesses to her readers about a time in her life when she suffered unbearable loss and grief. Even though she goes on to explain how her ability to communicate with animals goes back her childhood days, it is clear that her gift was the foundation from which she overcame great pain and loss. Along with relating her childhood experiences, Walker also shares her intimate encounters and communications with all things natural, including cats, dogs, wolves, bears, birds, spiders, even ants, and the plant world. Walker's gift is not unique. What is unique is how she has practiced and developed her gift. Readers who want to tap into that natural energy will learn from her experiences in this book. Those who have already talked with animals and nature will find certain validation in the stories she shares. Above all, "Talks with Animals and Nature: Bridging the Communication Gap with All Life" reveals the power of animals and nature to heal us -- no matter what our pain -- if we allow them.
Julia Dweck, author
Brian Allen, illustrator
Sleepy Sheep Productions
B00N975GGO, $1.99, 32 pages, http://sleepysheeppro.com
After being stuck inside a box all his life, Jack breaks free on his thousandth jump. But he sees himself as a broken toy and destined for the trash bin. Until Barker the dog comes to the rescue and shows Jack all the different ways to jump. Imagine Jack's surprise when he learns how to jump rope, bungee jump, jump out of cake, and many more big jumps. Life outside the box is a lot more fun. Dweck's story in verse in combination with Allen's vibrant cartoon illustrations set the scene for each high-flying adventure. The end pages contain fun facts about nature's biggest jumpers plus activities that carry on the jump theme. "Jump!" shows kids the joys of trying new things.
Personal Finance for Children: Making Personal Finance Cool to Kids
United Publishing House
Atlanta, Georgia 30328
B00E4BV4W4, $0.99, 42 pages, www.amazon.com
This is a guide book for parents who want to teach their kids about money and finance. Cruise recommends ways to introduce money concepts in each age group - from toddlers to teens - which help raise their awareness of financial matters. In addition he suggests learning activities including the tried and true piggy bank and raising money for a charitable cause. The benefit of working together as a family to understand money concepts and finances is an important theme throughout. Even though this book is meant for parents, it's a quick and easy read for kids who are ten years and older. Parents should encourage their kids to read this book as a way to start the conversation about money and finances. For example, the chapter on "Businesses for Kids" contains some great ideas to open up a dialogue about earning money. "Making Personal Finance Cool to Kids" offers a simple and positive approach to turn money and finance into a family project.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Karl Ove Knausgaard, author
Don Bartlett, translator
c/o Farrar, Straus & Giroux
18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9780374534141, $10.12, www.amazon.com
In a brilliant, paradoxical few words, Harvard professor and long-time literary critic James Wood characterizes My Struggle perfectly as being "alive to death" (New Yorker, "Total Recall"). This beautifully embodies Karl Ove Knausgaard's autobiographical novel (the first in a series of six), in which he recounts a complex and dark relationship with his father. From childhood to adulthood, My Struggle is a new kind of bildungsroman. If the narrator grows out of innocence and into knowing, the process holds none of the grandness we have come to expect from such growth, none of the ecstasy of reaching a more enlightened state of mind. Mr. Knausgaard alters his vision of the world only to become more acutely aware of its ordinariness and its wickedness. If the novel is at times mundane, the dullness always has an edge of intensity, almost immorality. It is the world as a whole, in Mr. Knausgaard's universe, that becomes somehow immoral in its ability to remain both utterly ordinary and painfully distressing.
The second half of the novel reaches a grotesqueness and banality all its own. It is shocking and painful in a terribly dull way. But somehow, that is the genius of Knausgaard's novel; he makes the most painful experience seem ordinary. Though this at times leads to a sense of anticlimax, it also creates a vision of the world that is both terrifying and terrifyingly familiar.
Knausgaard seems to abandon all writing rules, all attempts at style and linguistic beauty and instead aims for a truth so absolute that the reader cannot help but be moved by it. This is Knausgaard, without embellishment, or heroics, as he is and as he sees the world. Has there ever been a book like this? In its simplicity and horror, My Struggle is an exceptional work.
One Bloody Shirt at a Time
John Hardy Publishing
1330 Sherwood Forest St Houston TX 77043
1470192845, $15.95, 268 pages, www.amazon.com
Something strange is happening in the town of Terlingua, Texas. Deputy Margarita Ricos has lived there her whole life, but never has she witnessed such crime. A murder has taken place in the night, and while this unexpected violence is still fresh on her mind, Margarita gets a call: a young girl has been raped, and they need Margarita's help in getting her to open up. Deputy Ricos is mystified by the sudden brutality in her usually quiet town, and sets out to find the perpetrators that are disturbing the tranquility of West Texas. As our fierce deputy is hard at work investigating these unforeseeable crimes, an ominous presence is approaching her in the night. Are all of these dark threats connected? Or has the town of Terlingua become a haven for violent souls?
In her debut novel, "One Bloody Shirt at a Time," Elizabeth Garcia creates a series of characters that are unique and engaging, and quickly take on a life of their own. Most importantly, each is as suspect as the next. A Sherlock Holmes mystery in a Stephen King setting, Garcia's novel has the added benefit of being a beautifully written work. It is hard to believe that Ms. Garcia could have done a more stunning job of describing the splendor of her setting. Garcia seamlessly incorporates gorgeous descriptions of Terlingua into her writing. Even those of us who have never stepped foot in West Texas will come to know it and love it like our own home. The lushness of Garcia's desert is full of life. It possesses an energy only rivaled by the spirit of Margarita herself, who is both a superhero deputy that we admire and a deeply damaged human that we relate to instantly. Told from her perspective, the writing is intelligent, thoughtful, and full of sass. But the true beauty of the writing lies in the connection we form with Deputy Margarita Ricos thanks to Garcia's brilliant style.
If you manage to put this book down at all, your mind will remain in Terlingua, where it will puzzle over the murder, and come to rest on the distant mountains, as Margarita's so often does.
Sarah Le Pichon
Crossings: A Tale of Andor
M. K. Theodoratus
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00N12RNFE, $2.99, 52 Pages, www.amazon.com
Set in the fantasy world of Andor, this is the tale of Crossings, a quiet town where people go about their own business and don't like change.
Ebe, is one of the locals, an elderly widower, living quietly in his cabin, minding his own business, until the strangers arrive, and set up a dog farm across the valley on the land his grandmother once owned.
Soon the tranquillity of their peaceful life is shattered as the unfriendly farmers become abusive and menacing to the locals, guarding their land with their ferocious dogs. Ebe's property overlooks the farm, and he has his suspicions that foul play is afoot. When his dog disappears he pays the farmers a visit, but his reception and a closer look at the farm does nothing to calm his fears, something is happening there, the farmers have a strange look about them, they are hiding a secret, and all is not as it seems.
The police will not help the locals, the farmers from the city have too much money, however, the hill folk are not as powerless as they seem.
Nance, is the leader of the hill folk, she is as old as the hills, fearless, and with her Guardians and powers she stands against the forces of evil who have taken over their lives. When the farmers arrive at her door, Ebe watches powerless as a battle of good against evil ensues, but is it a battle Nance can win, and will the peaceful inhabitants of Crossings ever be safe from the terrible evil?
This is a wonderful story, anyone who has lived in a small community which has been subject to change can immediately emphasize with this small town, not wanting to be interfered with, resenting unfriendly newcomers, and resisting change. However, this is not an ordinary community and the characters in this story are not all normal people, some of them have magical powers and the changes are not minor, they are a struggle of good versus evil.
I read this book in one sitting, it has a wonderful storyline and is a really enjoyable fantasy.
Who Turned Out The Lights?
B00F4A6I6G, $3.20, 108 Pages, www.amazon.com
A very interesting and no holes barred memoir.
I have read many memoirs and I can honestly say, none of them have been like this one.
Diagnosed as diabetic aged ten the author's parents, ignored the condition, even though his father was a diabetic also. This lack of concern carried on through his life until the disease started to affect him, in ways he could not ignore.
This story is a no-holes-barred honest chronicle of Ronald's life. He tells his story in a very frank, matter of fact and sometimes humorous way, and gives the reader an incredible insight into what it is like to lose your eye sight.
His story is not told as a sad one, there are many different facets to it as he rationally discusses the impact his life had on his loved ones, and his relationships. Moreover, it is a unique insight into actually coming to terms with the loss of your sight, and the obstacles both mentally and physically which have to be overcome during the process.
As his diabetes worsens other factors affect his life, and the book appears to finish quite abruptly, however this is because, I suspect, there is more to come...
Doorways (A Book of Vampires, Werewolves & Black Magic)
B004R9QVBW, $1.25, 233 Pages, www.amazon.com
Pure Magic! These two words sum up this book completely.
Zach and his sister are orphaned and have been sent to live with their strange and evil uncle. His poor sister is ill, however, one of Zach's favourite ways to escape their unhappy life is to run along the beach. One day he discovers, in the sand, a door. Well, what 16 year old boy could resist opening it? When he does, he finds himself in an alternative world called Endra.
As soon as he steps through the door, he meets William who's a Werewolf, and a beautiful Vampire called Neanna, who tell him that he's a Peacekeeper, and they have been waiting for him...
The author, Tim O'Rourke, has an amazing imagination, the story is magical and contains every creature imaginable, from vampires, witches, sorcerers, werewolves and some unimaginable ones too.
This is a great adventure for young adults, or even adults, who are young at heart. For me it is comparable to The Lord of The Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. If you love fantasy, adventure and pure escapism, combined with a good story, then this is the book for you. I can't wait to read the continuation of their adventures in book 2.
B00NB5V8I4, $4.03, 166 Pages, www.amazon.com
After twenty seven years in the business, who wouldn't want an exclusive story, especially when "It's the BIG one?" The one which answers questions which has been asked by millions. "Are there really aliens out there, and have they ever visited Earth?"
Well, journalist Peter Anderson is given the opportunity to find the answers to these questions, a journalists dream. However first he must travel to Payson, Arizona and interview Professor Donald Thorpe, luckily the doorman at the hotel has a 'friend' who can drive him. Meet Dimitri Rurik Petrova otherwise known as Bob!
The Professor says he has proof that the lights in the sky are real, and, what Peter sees that day, changes his life forever.
Soon, Peter and Bob find themselves rescuing Emma, a beautiful woman they discover being horribly tortured in a basement.
Then the fun begins as we discover the answers to many questions. If you've always wondered about those lights in the desert, if little green men have visited earth, and if spaceships exist the answers could be here...
Whether or not you believe the outcome, there is no denying that you will have great fun reading this very enjoyable science fiction story. It has all the essential components, good characters, a great plot and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, right up until the end.
Oh, and mustn't forget to mention Bob's numerous cousins, without whom this story couldn't have been written.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Translator - Charlotte Barslund
Alfred A. Knopf
c/o Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780385351386, $25.95, 402 pages, www.amazon.com
Can a confession without evidence convict someone of murder?
Sonny Lofthus is in prison in Norway for committing two murders. Naturally many felons continually profess their own innocence but how often do other convicts believe in another inmate's innocence?
For Sonny, this unique situation of respect also appears to have given him healing hands capable of mending the broken souls of these imprisoned souls. The cost of this service is to keep him supplied with enough heroin so that he stays high. Yes within prison walls, all the inmates and the staff manage to keep Sonny content.
However, Sonny really is innocent of these two murders. Was his confession years ago worth the way he lives now?
Sonny's father as a policeman, appeared to be deeply involved in corruption. He killed himself, or did he? With new information, he questions the truth about his father. Was he set up?
He realizes that within the prison walls, he cannot discover the truth. With help, Sonny manages to successfully escape. On a personal quest to exonerate his father and to discover the truth, Sonny needs to stay ahead of law enforcement and those you do not want their secrets revealed.
The Son is an unusual mystery separating the law from justice. What is right when the law is mistaken or corrupt?
From the law enforcement perspective, Chief Inspector Simon Kefas with a new inexperienced partner are investigating a murder and the likely suspect is Sonny. What isn't clear is how Sonny is somehow connected to the death. Could he be innocent and because he is escaped, he is just the most likely suspect? Simon, coincidentally was the partner of Sonny's father, Ab. A part of Simon wants to save Sonny while also he realizes his commitment to enforce the law.
Added to Simon's conflict, is the personal problem of his wife going blind. As an addicted gambler, there is no money that creating is needed for her to travel to the States for surgery to save her sight. When money is offered, can he accept it to save his wife and what is expected of him in return?
The Son is a standalone novel and is not in the Harry Hole series. As with Nesbo's other books, this book was originally written in Norwegian and then translated into English and whether it is the writing or the translating, The Son is an enticing and enthralling tale that is graphically violent, although not as dark as Nesbo's other novels. What is unique about The Son is the internal conflicts of each character and each other creating fluctuating between being protagonists and antagonists.
Viewing the escaped murderer who seeks justice and truth creates hope in this conflicted tale.
The author, Jo Nesbo resides in Norway working as a songwriter, musician, economist as well as the award winning author for the Glass Key which is given for the best Nordic crime novel.
For a different type of mystery with realistically human characters, read The Son.
When a Spider Came to Stay
Rebecca Crosdale, author
Charles Berton, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
97814006109010, Paperback $12.99, e-book $ 2.99, 32 pages, www.amazon.com
"Along came a spider, who sat down beside her and frightened..."
Those words from the old nursery rhyme have created generations suffering from arachnophobia. Are spiders really that frightening? Are they a threat to humans?
Those words have terrified many a child and yes, even adults throughout the year. Spiders with their wiggly legs, often hairy, and fanged mouths appear frightening. In reality, most spiders really do not choose to be near humans. Yes, spiders can appear scary, but most are harmless to humans. However to insects, they are lethal.
When a Spider Came to Stay separates children's fears from reality. A girl is sitting quietly in her den with a spider weaving an intricate web in the corner of the room along the ceiling. After awhile, it quietly descends on a single silken thread to the ground where it approaches the girl and seems to sit beside the chair. She leans to the opposite arm of the chair actually cowering in the corner of the chair. In time, she feels a little more comfortable with the creature even attempting to talk and feed the spider.
When a Spider Came to Stay has clear and vividly colorful pictures perfectly matching the text as the girl's curiosity replaces her fear recognizing the beauty and artistry of one-small arachnid's magnificent creation even beginning to slightly alter the perspective from the spider.
With short sentences on each illustrated page, the story moves quickly in the first twenty-six pages. Additionally there are four pages of questions for teachers and parents leading into the underlying themes not immediately revealed in the story creating a deeper understanding and realization regarding differences and acceptances of others who are different.
The approach of the author regarding fear of the unknown is clever with this parallel story of the spider. Utilizing people's common misconceptions of ignorance through this delightful tale is a brilliant idea by the author Rebecca Crosdale while also teaching about friendship and courage.
Also unusual and wonderful is that this tale is also published in a simplified version for younger children or for those with special needs entitled The Spider in My Den with Sherry Rose Anderson as the illustrator.
The Spider Came to Stay is a delightful small book for children of all ages teaching some life lessons for everyone.
Dead Ball: A Lainie Lovett Still Kicking Mystery
Bell Bridge Books
P.O. Box 300921, Memphis, TN 38130
978161194412, $14.95 Paperback, $4.99 Kindle, 248 pages, www.amazon.com
Curiosity is what causes Lainie's problems. Widowed elementary-school teachers who have a college graduated daughter living back at home and who play soccer with the local women's under-fifty soccer league are not the most likely murder suspects.
When rain cancels soccer practice, Lainie and a few friends relax at a local pub, the Olde Towne. What they didn't plan on was seeing a teammate's husband with a young well-endowed blond. What do you do now? Do you tell Patty, his wife? The husband was so engaged with the blond that he did not notice the other women. What do you do now?
In the past, Patty has stated that if her husband messed around, she would kill him. Is this premeditated murder?
Arthur Cavanaugh had a dream to develop a new housing development for the wealthy. The locals have mixed feelings about this new area. Most realize that the new area should greatly increase the value of their property while also attracting environmentalists due to the destruction of the forested areas and wildlife.
Lainie seems to attract trouble. When she hears rumors of the possible death, she decides to drive over to the construction site where Arthur was killed. Unfortunately, the police have not even left the crime scene yet and see her observing from the distance. Added to that, she meets the foreman of the construction project, Bill Slavik who seems interested in her. Lainie is interested and agrees to go out with him. This is her first date since her husband died of cancer.
Arthur was killed at the construction site. Who would be the likely suspect? Bill Slavik, the foreman who frequently yelled at the developer or the wife? Considering the he was killed with a nail gun, who would be your most likely suspect?
When she finds Arthur's phone in her purse, she wisely calls her attorney. He escorts Lainie to the police to turn in the phone. How did it get in her purse?
Lainie quickly discovers that this first date and the phone have made her a suspect. She is arrested as a possible accomplice.
This creates another problem for Lainie. Because she is a murder suspect, she is placed on temporary leave from her fourth-grade classroom and because Patty is on the soccer team, she is also temporarily suspended from the team.
What does she do with her extra time?
Why not investigate who really killed Arthur?
Dead Ball is a fast-paced romantic mystery. Lainie is a delightful protagonist with real-world problems and issues, even if she is a little dense and blind to the obvious. The supporting characters are varied with their roles in Lainie's life even when adding humor and realism with her Jewish mother-in-law. The story concludes completely as most romances, almost so nicely that it seems a bit contrived. Real life usually does not conclude quite so completely.
Judith Arnold has written more than ninety novels and has won numerous awards for her romance novels. One of her books earned the distinction of being a finalist for the RITA, the Romance Writer's of America while also being the winner of the Reviewer's Choice Awards for R.T. Reviews. Her novels have won the best Harlequin American Romance Award, as well as the Harlequin Super romance, Harlequin Series Romance, Harlequin Contemporary, and Single Title Romance. Love in Bloom was considered to be one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly.
Dead Ball is a wonderful, fast-paced, cozy, page turner that will keep your interest to the last page.
The Lewis Man
55 Baker Street, 7th Floor, South Block, London, W1U 8EW
9781623658299, $21.94, Hardcover, 368 pages, www.quercusbooks.co.uk
"When you are young a year is a big part of your life and seems to last for ever. When you are old, there have been too many of them gone before and they pass all too fast. We move so slowly away from birth, and rush so quickly to death."
The Isle of Lewis is the largest and northermost island of the Outer Hebrides off the northwestern coast of Scotland. During the harvest season when the peat fom the bogs is actually cut to be used for heating during the long harsh winters, a body is discovered.
Being mummified, the first reaction is to bring in archaeologists to date the body. Peat is an unusual substance in that it stops the body from decaying while preserving it. The facial features of the dead man are clear enough for others to notice a resemblance to local families. The medical examiner notices multiple stab wounds concluding that death was caused by the victim's throat being cut. Could this have been a human sacrifice from ages ago?
On closer examination, a tattoo is discovered on the victim's arm. Looking carefully, the tattoo is of Elvis. Immediately law enforcement realizes that this murder happened in the last fifty years. How do you identify the owner of the body from fifty years ago? How do you bring the killer to justice?
Fin McLeod has left behind his life as a detective inspector and is returning to the island to restore his parents' derelict croft and hoping to reconnect with a former love who he believes was the love of his life. He didn't plan to be involved with this investigation.
DNA reveals that the mummified body is a close relative of his former love's father who is living his final years in the throes of dementia at a retirement home. Quickly Fin learns that her father is not the man whose name he has used for fifty years. Why? What is the old man hiding? Who is he? Could this old man be a killer? What does he know about the dead man? How do you discover his secrets?
The Lewis Man is an enthralling novel with a different approach for a mystery. The movement is slow at first while introducing the characters and their relationships. Incorporating a background of the isolated and desolate everyday life on Lewis fifty-some years ago brings to light the problems of the time period. With the Catholic/Protestant conflicts, orphaned children, as well as the problems of the simplistic and constant working of the fields and the bogs these island inhabitants led a hard life.
This book is a reprint of the original published in 2011 and is part of a three book set The Lewis Trilogy all by Peter May. The Lewis Man is actually the second novel in this series following The Black House and concluding with The Chessman. Attached to the trilogy is another photo book also by Peter May entitled Hebrides.
Author Peter May is an award-winning journalist currently residing in France. He has been the screenwriter for three prime-time British drama series as well as numerous television programs. He has over fifteen published novels including additional series The Enzo Files and The China Thrillers. He is the only western author who is an honorary member of the Chinese Crime Writers' Association and has won the Barry and the Crime Thriller Hound Award.
Dark, depressing are both perfect descriptors of The Lewis Man. However, this is unquestionably a superbly written novel which slowly draws the reader into the story in a masterfully creative manner while viewing just a glimpse of a past life in the Outer Hebrides.
I definitely plan to read the other novels in this trilogy as well as Peter May's other masterpieces.
Children of the Revolution
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062240507, $25.99, Hardcover, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
DCI Alan Banks, as usual, takes matters into his own hands in this rather convoluted novel which begins with the discovery of the body of Gavin Miller, a disgraced college professor. Subsequent investigation by Banks and his team uncovers many potential suspects, some from the victim's college days 40 years before.
The murdered man appeared to have been desperate, malnourished, and greatly in need of funds. And among the possible motives for his death were drugs and blackmail. With only theories to go on, the police begin a plodding check into Miller's life, from his earliest days to his dismissal from his teaching post for sexual indiscretion. And all sorts of secrets begin to surface.
The plot is an interesting one, but bogs down with various side issues and long-winded passages and dialogue. While the writing is the usual high standard of a Peter Robinson novel, it is slow reading because of these characteristics. And because of the depth of the police procedural as well, which seems never-ending.
Nonetheless, as with all prior entries in this series, it is recommended.
Dick Francis's Damage
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399160222, $26.95, Hardcover, 400 pp, www.amazon.com
Felix Francis has now written four novels on his own in the highly successful and recognized Dick Francis horseracing mystery series, as well as co-authoring four others. All have been of the high quality one came to expect from pere Francis. Might one suggest that it might be time for his novels to be issued in his own name? Unless, of course, there is a nostalgic, or filial, reason to continue labeling the books "Dick Francis's."
Undercover investigator Jeff Hinkley of the British Horseracing Authority is charged with identifying the person sabotaging various high profile horse races by initially by doping the race entries, and subsequently by other methods. And just to complicate his life, his brother-in-law asks him to find a missing accuser who has falsely testified that his son is a drug dealer, hopefully to convince him to retract his story. Meanwhile, on a personal level, Jeff has to decide how his relationship with his live-in girlfriend is to develop.
Needless to say, the author has the Francis formula down pat, with descriptions of the horse-racing industry real and exciting, and character analysis deep and penetrating. Moreover, insights into Jeff's personality and psyche are sharp and insightful. In fact, all the characterizations are acute, as is the plotting, and the novel is highly recommended.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425264645, $7.99, Paperback, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
The team of Arapaho attorney Vickey Holden and Father John O'Malley are confronted with an unlikely bit of history in this latest Wind River mystery: A reenactment of the killing of Col. George Custer, originally put to death at the Battle of Little Big Horn many decades earlier. Edward Garrett, enacting the role of Custer, leads a group of "cavalrymen" in a parade down Main Street, when a band of Indians surrounded the column, encircling it with a challenge ride to demonstrate that the Indians defeated the U.S. army previously.
When the Indians rode off, Garrett lay on the ground, dead of a bullet wound. Naturally, the blame was cast upon the Indians, and especially the leader who posed as Crazy Horse, who led the attack on the original Custer. The lead detective has enough circumstantial evidence to make arrests and the good Father and Holden are hard pressed to substantiate their innocence. To complicate matters Vickey, now representing Garrett's wife, has a conflict of interest preventing her from taking on the accused as clients.
The Wind River series is a long-running one, now numbering 17 in all. Each centers around the Wyoming reservation housing the Arapahos and Cheyenne, with the Holden/O'Malley duo solving yet another crime or mystery. "Killing Custer" follows that pattern, except instead of taking a path based on some quaint Indian history, it is derived from the grisly massacre of the soldiers in blue. As always, the plot and writing are smooth, and the novel is recommended.
Poisoned Pen Press
962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203107, $24.95, Hardcover, 402 pp, www.amazon.com
As in the previous seven entries in the series, this latest Leno Jones Mystery revolves around a central question. It begins when the Cameron family, father, mother and 10-year-old son, are found brutally murdered, and their 14-year-old daughter. Ali, and her boyfriend, Kyle are arrested for the deed. Each confesses in the mistaken belief that he/she was protecting the other. And thus begins the story which asks the question: What is a mother?
Almost immediately, Lena is retained by Juliana Thorsson, an apparently hard-hearted, right-wing Congresswoman and unannounced candidate for the U.S. Senate from Arizona, to discover what really happened and find the real killer. The reason for her interest is derived from the fact that she was the donor of the egg which grew into Ali after being fertilized with her father's sperm and gestated in her mother's womb. And it's quite a journey from the beginning to the end, illustrating the various permutations of what makes a woman a mother.
Betty Webb is not shy. She takes on all kinds of controversial topics, from polygamy to adoption and foster care. Her description of the Arizona climate and Scottsdale's geography makes the reader feel the heat and see the environment, and her development of the characters dwelling in the pages of her novels allows the reader to get to know them intimately.
It should be noted that "Desert Rage" is also available in a trade paperback edition (9781464203121, $14.95).
The Funeral Owl
110 E. 59th St., NY, NY 10022
9781780295411, $15.95, Paperback, 256 pp, www.amazon.com
It is a fundamental precept of the journalistic trade that a reporter should never be part of the story. Apparently this precept doesn't apply to Phillip Dryden, the editor of the local newspaper The Crow and former Fleet Street reporter. Time and again throughout this latest story in the mystery series, he not only is a participant in the story, writing first-hand, reports his discovery of a body of a Chinese man hanging from a cross of Jesus near Christ Church, in an explosion of an illegal still, in which three men, two Chinese and a Pole, when he is nearby, or several other crimes where he is either in the middle, aiding the police in analyzing the event, or solving it.
The police theorize the original murder and subsequent occurrences in a nearby town are the result of a turf war, either between opposing tongs or a splinter group, each seeking control of illegal harvesting and black market sale of metal obtained from various sources, including lead ripped off the roof of the church. Somehow, Dryden finds links between the supposed disparate murders and other odd events.
Dryden is a hardworking editor and reporter, ever on the go. The writing is sometimes slow and mired in Anglicism's, but on the whole the plotting is sharp and there is plenty of human interest. And, to top it off, the Fens geography and weather, together with a touch of the area's history, increase the reader's interest, especially the intimate descriptions of dust storms a la the 1930s Midwest, and the novel is recommended.
Robert B. Parker's Damned If You Do
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425270073, $9.99, Paperback, 304 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the third Jesse Stone novel since Robert B. Parker's death, and it follows the customary formula: two subplots and the police chief's sense of "justice" and his fast retorts. To begin with, Jesse observes mistreatment in an assisted living facility when visiting his former accountant, and takes steps to rectify the situation in his own indomitable fashion.
But more to the point of police work, he is summoned to a local motel to find a young woman dead with a knife wound through her heart. This brings Jesse smack in the middle of a festering war between two pimps fighting for control of prostitution not only in Paradise, Jesse's jurisdiction, but Boston as well. How he goes about solving the dilemma is pure Jesse.
The author recreates the fast-paced dialogue, characteristic of Parker's novels, using the same approach to moving the stories ahead, including short paragraphs and chapters alternating between the subplots. Once again, it is a happy thought that the franchise still lives, even as we mourn the loss of the originator.
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062270184, $26.99, 20.00 BPS, 21.99 CA, Hardcover, 374 pp, www.amazon.com
After 30 years with the LAPD, detective lieutenant Peter Decker takes retirement. And what does he do? He and his wife, Rina, move to a sleepy Hudson Valley village in upstate New York where he joins the local police department as a detective just to keep busy, on the theory that nothing ever happens there. Also, to be near their kids and grandkids in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. And after six months of rescuing cats from trees, it would appear that the assumption was correct. Wrong.
First off, there is a break-in at a mausoleum in the local cemetery where two of four Tiffany windows representing the four seasons were stolen, replaced with forgeries. Then a female art senior at a local college is found brutally murdered. Now Peter has something to dig his teeth into. Are the two crimes related? And when another murder of someone known to the co-ed occurs in a nearby suburb to Boston the plot thickens.
The novel is a straightforward summary of the ensuing investigation. There is little in the way of suspense, as the reader follows Peter and the others as they plod along. The conclusion is pretty far from what one would expect from what had preceded it. The book is smoothly written with some clever witticisms and cute characterizations to keep one's interest.
Thomas H. Cook
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802155146,, $15.00, Paperback, 352 pp., www.amazon.com
There have been many novels depicting, describing and analyzing criminal courtroom cases. Some are narrated by lawyers, a la Grisham. Others by p.i.'s. Some even by witnesses, prosecutors or just plain old cops. Rarely has there been a novel from the point of view of the defendant, learning more about himself as the testimony unfolds. Yet that's what this book is all about.
The novel is a detailed analysis of a man, Sam Madison, who is charged with murdering his wife, Sandrine. The two were professors at a small college in Georgia, married for many years when she is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Apparently the prosecution believes he killed his wife to avoid watching her die slowly and having to care for her. The case is largely circumstantial, but is carefully built upon a strong series of clues about Sam, and how he changed over the years, disillusioned with life and the town in which they lived and taught and the college, and developing into a person different from the one he was when the two first met.
The plot follows that trial, day by day, giving the author the means to develop the changes in Sam's personality as each witness tells of observations Sandrine made to them. It proves quite a learning experience. It slowly develops toward an unexpected conclusion, unforeseen but logical. Written smoothly, it reaches the unpredictable ending to what otherwise could be a confusing but troubling case.
Translated by Don Bartlett
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
978307742988, $14.95, Paperback, 512 pp, www.amazon.com
This latest Harry Hole novel to be published in the US [termed "Oslo Sequence #4" in the series] may be an allegory, but it certainly is a high-powered crime story. It begins in Oslo in the days before Christmas when a Salvation Army soldier is shot on a street where he stood by the familiar kettle. Complicating Harry's investigation efforts is the fact that there are no witnesses despite the crowds attending a nearby street concert, and no suspect, weapon or motive. And to make matters worse, the assassin soon finds out that the victim was not his quarry, so he continues his mission.
The taut writing is supplemented with a broad cast of characters. But more important are the insights into Harry's psyche. He is still suffering from the death of his partner and the corruption of some of his colleagues who ran an arms supply business right out of police headquarters (an enterprise to which Harry put an end, somewhat to the disdain of some other police officers).
"The Redeemer" is a complex mystery which slowly builds to the point where the reader needs Harry's help in understanding just what has transpired. Along the way, it is filled with deep observations about junkies, rape, and even Serbian brutality, homelessness and other social issues. It probably is the best in the series to date, and is highly recommended.
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451691726, $25.00, Hardcover, 318 pp, www.amazon.com
Jim Brodie made his initial appearance in "Japantown," an action-packed thriller and the series debut. He now returns in a novel which is no less filled with derring-do and lots of exotic descriptions of Japanese culture and history. Brodie inherited a half-interest in Brodie Security, founded by his late father and headquartered in Tokyo, and also operates an art dealership, which he claims is his main profession, in San Francisco.
In Tokyo seeking a rare painting, Brodie is approached by a 90-year-old veteran of World War II asking for protection because members of his military detachment in Manchuria during the war-time occupation by Japan were being murdered. After he supplies a security detail, events take over the course of the rest of the novel, as Brodie investigates the possibility of Triads, Chinese spies and others as the culprits. And that takes on a life of its own.
The author has lived and worked in Japan for more than a quarter century, and the flavor and information about the country permeates with authenticity throughout the novel. His description of various types of martial arts practiced in Japan is a further exhibit of his expertise. Powerfully written, "Tokyo Kill" is a very enjoyable read, and this reader is looking forward to additions to the series.
City of Darkness and Light
c/o St/ Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250011664, $25.99, Hardcover, 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 Dancer in the Dust
Thomas H. Cook
The Mysterious Press
841 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9780802122728, $26.00, Hardcover, 352 pp, www.amazon.com
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this novel is a mystery wrapped in a love story immersed in a tragedy. It is the story of one woman's attempt to help preserve a newly independent African country pitted against the force of do-good charities and the powers-that-be with their hands out to use the money and goods to preserve their control.
As a young man, Ray Campbell takes on the task of an aid worker hoping to improve conditions in the newly-independent country of Lubanda. He is assigned to a remote village where he meets Martine Aubert, a white woman in a black nation who owns a small farm and lives a simple life. While he falls in love with her, she apparently loves Lubanda more. And her beliefs are opposed to the plans of government officials for development, leading to a tragic end.
The author blends a tale of love and death that is totally consuming. By presenting the plot in the present, with flashbacks, the reader moves forward gaining knowledge slowly but logically. The book is written with grace and simplicity describing a complex narrative, and it is highly recommended.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399160769, $26.95, Hardcover, 370 pages, www.amazon.com
The 14th Joe Pickett novel is quite different from preceding entries in the series. It is less involved with the environment, which, though never completely ignored, one has become accustomed to in plots involving the Wyoming game warden, but filled with action and violence. It begins when the governor enlists Joe to secretly scout what is believed to be a criminal enterprise in the northern part of the state where a rich stranger has set himself up as the lord and master of the area, buying everything in sight up and having virtually the entire population in his figurative debt.
Joe is not supposed to get involved, but merely gather information, setting the stage for the FBI to make a case. Of course, that never keeps Joe from an active role. An added dilemma: Joe's good friend Nate appears to be involved with the bad guys. A second subsidiary plot line involves Joe's daughter Sheridan, who is a Resident Assistant at the university residence and provides an offbeat finale.
The action is non-stop, and the inclusion of more of Pickett's family in the story adds a touch of real human interest. The characters drawn are hard-nosed, and Joe's sense of righteousness comes across loud and clear. An excellent tale told with verve and clarity.
Back Bay Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316078405, $15.00, Paperback, 336 pp, www.amazon.com
In light of the disjointed activities in recent weeks in the nation's Capital, the situations described in this novel, featuring Spero Lucas, who initially appeared in "The Cut," to which this book is a follow-up, should not come as a surprise. Lucas, an ex-Marine, is an investigator for a defense attorney, and takes jobs on the side in which he finds things for people.
"The Double" of the title is a painting, stolen from a woman friend of a bartender who asks Lucas to retrieve it. What seems to be a simple enough task turns into all sorts of violence. At the same time, Spero is asked by his English teacher brother to follow up on the murder of one of his students. And just to keep busy, he embarks on a torrid love affair with a married lady.
Mr. Pelecanos capably blends in Spero's concerns for his war veteran friends and the flavor of Washington, D.C., past and present. Not the shenanigans in the Capitol, but on the streets and in the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. Luca is a complicated character, appealing, with loose morals, but rigid ethics. The plot is action-packed and is much more than just a crime story or thriller.
Murder in Pigalle
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952846, $27.95, Hardcover, 308 pp, www.amazon.com
Five months pregnant and suffering from morning sickness and other discomforts, Aimee Leduc still has the drive to investigate a series of rapes in the famous Pigalle district of Paris in this, the 14th novel in the series. And, of course, getting herself into all kinds of dangerous situations, despite her delicate condition.
When the 13-year-old daughter of the couple that owns the cafe on the corner of her office fails to return home, Aimee is enlisted to find her. The fear, of course, is that what appears to be a serial rapist who preys on young girls has abducted her. Aimee to the rescue. What is unknown at the time is a subplot which intertwines with that theory. But never fear: Aimee is on the job.
The story is to some degree based on a true Parisian crime that took place in 1998. As in past novels in the series, detailed descriptions of Paris, and especially the area in which the tale takes place, permeate the pages, lending flavor as usual. The book gets off to a rather slow start, with a lot of superfluous detail, but gathers steam as it goes. While all the previous novels have been somber (after all, serious crimes are involved), this book is grim given the age of the victims and the gravity of the harm that comes to Aimee. Given impending motherhood, the question arises: Is it time to retire?
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425270240, $9.99, Paperback, 416 pp, www.amazon.com
Virgil Flowers, the successful agent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is given an unusual assignment: To meet an Israeli cop, a woman who has been sent to help recover an artifact stolen from her country by an American minister who "discovered" it while on an archeological dig there. It is a stone suggesting that King Solomon and an Egyptian pharaoh were one and the same. If true, the ramifications would be momentous.
The only trouble is that the stone is in the hands of the minister, who is auctioning it off to the highest bidder, seeking $3 million. The plot moves forward with all kinds of complications, as Virgil attempts to recover the stone and capture the culprits, including various bidders such as two deadly Turks, representatives of Hezbollah, and others. It's a merry chase right up to the end.
Clever does not do the plotting justice. Mr. Sanford has outdone himself on taking both Virgil and the reader on a wild ride toward an ending so unexpected as to leave one gasping.
(I am delighted to note that the newest book by this author, "Field of Prey," was published on May 6, 2014, and is next up for this reviewer!)
The Cairo Affair
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250036131, $26.99, Hardcover, 408 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.
Max Allan Collins
c/o Tor - Forge
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765370686, $9.99, Paperback, 352 pp, www.amazon.com
In this final volume in the JFK assassination trilogy, Nat Heller is caught up in investigating events in Dallas that November 22nd, drawn into the story behind the murder of the President, when he finds out about a series of suicides and suspicious deaths surrounding the case of Billy Sol Estes, who was famously convicted of fraud. Suddenly he sees a parallel, as witnesses to the event in Dallas' Dealey Plaza also seem to disappear by suicide, "accidental" death or murder.
"Ask Not" follows the previous novel, "Target Lancer," which recounts an assassination plot against Kennedy in Chicago mere weeks before his murder. Heller, who in the previous entry played a pivotal role in putting together elements of the mafia, CIA and other groups as a go-between in the effort to assassinate the Cuban dictator Castro, now finds himself, and possibly his son and ex-wife, in the cross-hairs in what appear to be an effort to clean up "loose ends" left over from the failed effort called Operation Mongoose. This sad affair presumably gave rise to the theory that Castro was behind the Kennedy assassination. But that does not stop the author from proposing other conspiracy theories as well, including Texas oil men and even LBJ.
Mr. Collins researches his novels extensively, and wherever possible uses real life people as characters, including Robert Kennedy or fictionalized persons based on real ones, such as Flo Kilgore, who more than resembles Dorothy Killgallen, columnist and TV personality. Whether or not there is any authenticity to the conspiracies told in the novels, they are always entertaining, and the novel is recommended.
Field of Prey
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399162381, $28.95, Hardcover, 392 pp, www.amazon.com
The Prey books are one of the longer-running series; they feature Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota Criminal Apprehension Bureau, sort of a statewide FBI group under the Governor's command. In his latest entry, there is no mystery, since the culprits are identified in the first few pages.
The story then takes the form of a police procedural, following Lucas' and the CAB's efforts to capture the perpetrators of many murders. The investigation begins following discovery of the remains of many female victims in a well-hidden cistern on an abandoned property. The skulls and bones of more than 15 bodies are recovered to begin with, apparently murdered over many years.
Reading the novel leads to the question of whether there is some superfluous content, which might have been edited out, allowing the material to move forward more smoothly. The murderer's MO is graphically described, leaving little to the reader's imagination. Character descriptions are well-honed, and, of course, Lucas always comes across well. Notwithstanding the earlier observation, the novel is recommended.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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