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Featured Book Reviews

 

Who Really Killed Stella?

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Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway
by Brigitte Goldstein
Pierredor Books

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"Each witness had a personal agenda, and each brought a skewed perspective to the story. Each had a multitude of sins and motives to sweep under the carpet woven of lies and distortions."

Grand in its scope and intricate in its design, this ambitious story attempts to bridge time and space—and accomplishes both quite nicely. Likewise, the author seamlessly melds the murder mystery and historical fiction genres, although the story reads much more like intertwined biographies of fictional characters and real-life individuals. ... (read more)

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A New Man Learns His Trade

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Twin River II: Have Weapons Will Travel
by Michael Fields
iUniverse

reviewed by Mihir Shah

"Quote"

The novel opens in 1966, guiding the readers through the picturesque Tomoka River in Florida as a father and son enjoy their fishing vacation aboard the "Have Weapons Will Travel" boat. If readers have not read the author's first book in the series, Twin River, prepare to be floored: a nonchalant, casual scene turns dark without a moments notice. From this moment onward, Fields has his audience captivated and eager to discover how a sympathetic, Catcher In the Rye-loving fourteen-year-old Wesley Palladin steps into his father's shoes and evolves into a prolific hitman. ... (read more)

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Elegance and Grace of Discovery

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Athena Parthenos/Promachus
by Huck Fairman
Xlibris

reviewed by Mihir Shah

"I, too, have believed, 'til now that we make our fate, to a great extent, once we have grown."

To visit the ancient relics of the Greeks is an experience of a lifetime. Through vivid sensory details and unparalleled knowledge of Greece, its history, and architecture, Fairman transports his audience to this mesmerizing land of gods and temples. At one point or another, most couples find their relationship strained, and the joy simply draining away from their lives. Few, however, are like Wren and Belle, the protagonists of the novel, who try to save their relationship via their anniversary trip to Greece. While the premise could simply be viewed as a couple trying to save their marriage... (read more)

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Enduring the Journey

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Crossroads: A Camino Tale
by F. R. Merrill
Red Fox Publishing

reviewed by Carol Davala

"All I can say is, each of us is here to learn, and to take home from this trip what we need."

Over a decade ago, renowned actress and new age author Shirley MacLaine made a milestone pilgrimage across Spain. She recounted her spiritual journey in the autobiographical work, The Camino. In 2006, F. R. Merrill travelled a similar path, yet instead chose to incorporate that same historic landscape as a backdrop for an intriguing, fictional tale. In this captivating read, seven women will trek 550 miles to follow the landmark path of St. James, the peacekeeper. ... (read more)

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A Time for Change

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Southern Winds A' Changing
by Elizabeth Carroll Foster
iUniverse

reviewed by Anita Lock

"She said our relationship be remarkable. A white woman and Afro-American woman living like sisters."

The year is 1932. Allise DeWitt is a well-educated white woman and the wife of a landowner. Maizee Colson is an woman and a sharecropper's daughter, living and working on DeWitt farm. The two women who seem to have nothing in common acuneducated Afro-American tually have more than one may expect. For starters, they are connected via Quent, Allise's husband, who rapes and gets Maizee pregnant—unbeknown at the time to a very expectant Allise. As a result, Allise and Maizee give birth to his boys who are roughly the same age. Maizee longs to be respected as an individual. ... (read more)

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The Circus Life

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Detour on an Elephant: A Year Dancing with The Greatest Show on Earth
by Barbara File Marangon
Ogham Books International

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

"Like a survivor who tells his or her version of the tale, I wanted - I somehow needed - to hold the rose again and relive my memories of that year in the circus.""

There has always been an alluring mystique about running away and joining the circus. Ballet dancer Barbara File Marangon actually did it. In her memoir, Marangon recounts how she went from dancing with the Stadttheater of Klagenfurt in Austria, to a year of performing for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Blue Unit Show in 1978. She frankly reveals her feelings: from the trepidations of the big step into a unique world ("What was I afraid of—the hard life that the circus was said to be? ... (read more)

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Mystery Dance

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One More Dance
by Valentine Cardinale
Outskirts Press

reviewed by Barbara Mims Deming

"So far he had managed to avoid contact with the police.... If only he hadn't lost his cool that night..."

Widower, Julian Case, enjoys attending a wedding in Italy, especially meeting and dancing the night away with university professor, Alegra Rossini. Winging his way home, he can't get her off his mind and plans to see the lovely woman again. Such thoughts are put on hold when he arrives home to find his son, Leo, almost beaten to death. Family, employees at Julian's real estate firm, and close friends rally around as a father vows to not only protect his family... (read more)

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Doctor on the Edge

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Burnout
by Joe Uricchio, M.D.
CHB Media

reviewed by Anita Lock

"You need to get out of here. Let your head settle. You need a vacation."

Dr. Jack Burke, an orthopedic surgeon, has grown apathetic about caring for his patients. It has been two years since his wife suddenly left with their son. Noticing that Jack has neither fully recovered from the collapse of his marriage, nor has he had a vacation in four years, he has basically burned out, Jack's medical team makes arrangements for him to get a bit of R&R and sends him to a resort in Belize. Amid a small group of vacationers, Jack meets Elena and they fall in love. ... (read more)

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A Job To Do

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South of Good
by Randall Reneau
Create Space

reviewed by Anita Lock

"In less than ten days, I'd gone from being a sworn law enforcement officer to a co-conspirator in a drug deal."

South of Good is a story about Hardin Steel, a sheriff who is constantly trying to nab drug dealers in a South Texas border county. When he attempts to capture the ringleader of a Mexican drug cartel, Steel is unaware of the compromises he will have to make to get the job done, as well as protect those who are near and dear to him. ... (read more)

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A Frontier Classic

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McCullough's Legacy
by Andrew C. Watzek
Trafford Publishing

reviewed by Carol Davala

"Any man who doesn't look you in the eye is either lyin' or he's got somethin' else on his mind. Either way, he's not to be trusted."

The shouts of "Head 'em up! Move 'em out!" call to mind Rawhide, a popular TV series that portrayed the challenges of a mid-1800s cattle drive. Here, breaking with tradition, author Andrew Watzek places women at the helm. In the aftermath of avenging their father's death. In the interest of saving the family ranch, the McCullough sisters who can out-shoot, out-track, and out-hunt most men, partner with a neighboring rancher, hire a former buffalo soldier as their ramrod, select a crew of drovers, and then venture to drive a nearly two thousand head herd across the Western territory. ... (read more)

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Inside Real Emerson

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Concord Sage: R.W. Emerson Life and Times
by Donna A. Ford
Amazon Digital Services

reviewed by John E. Roper

"At three years old, Ralph Waldo was a slow reader and didn't enjoy learning. Perhaps he didn't like reciting facts from memory. He did like blowing bubbles from soap and water with a pipe."

Most American high school students are required to read a few pithy selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Usually they are paired with works by his young protégé Henry Thoreau, and often readers come away with the impression that while the mentor was rather aloof and stodgy his more free-spirited disciple was "pretty cool." But there was much more to Emerson than what is revealed in his writings, a fact which the author aptly illustrates in her new biography of one of the nation's most famous thinkers. ... (read more)

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Woody Allen in Film

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Woody Allen: Reel to Real
by Alex Sheremet
Take2 Publishing

reviewed by John E. Roper

"In fact, I found the film, even then, rich and multi-layered, with sharp dialogue, wonderful experimentation, intellectual depth, and the kind of poetry and intuitive leaps that few works of art ever achieve."

Some people love them, others loath them, but few movie lovers are simply ambivalent about the films of Woody Allen. Many take equally polar views on the man himself, forever linking the filmmaker to his art. Much of the reason for this connection is undoubtedly because the persona Allen has carefully crafted frequently pops up as a character in his works. But there is much more to both the man and his movies than meets the casual viewer's eyes, a premise that the author expertly supports in his detailed and fascinating book. ... (read more)

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Finding Joy

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Story of Little Snail Ryba and Small Butterfly Kuzia
by Nikolay Moltchanov
Moltchanoph

reviewed by Michael Radon

"One who writes such beautiful poems can surely fly. There's only one thing: When you get your wings, don't lose your soul..."

Ryba is a young snail who loves to write poetry and play soccer. As a snail, he has the benefit of taking his home with him wherever he goes, meaning he is never without shelter when he needs it. Writing about love and freedom, Ryba's poetry becomes popular with the other insects in the area and attains some minor celebrity from it. However, Ryba's poetry about love was all from stories he'd heard secondhand. ... (read more)

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Encouraging the Classics

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Classics: Why We Should Encourage Children to Read Them
by Fiza Pathan

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

"Through this book, I in a very humble and modest way have tried to propagate my testimony about classics and what they can do for many."

Mumbai-born author and teacher Fiza Pathan believes fervently that reading classic books enhances imagination and improves language skills. She bases her theory on experience: At an early age, she read Bram Stoker's Dracula, inciting in her a love of good grammar and grand ideas. In her teaching, she observes that children who frequently surf the Internet or watch TV (even educational channels) tend merely to ingest... (read more)

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A Path to Healing

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The Healing
by Saeeda Hafiz

reviewed by Diane Elliott

"I decided that commitment is a combination of Art, attitude and alchemy."

Against a tragic background that few are able to transcend this powerful memoir leads us on a path to healing. Hafiz, a holistic nutritionist and yoga instructor, paints pictures that show us how to heal our bodies with healthy food, yoga, and exercise—and our minds with meditation and psychotherapy. She takes us on a journey into a land of holistic health that can have a social and spiritual impact. As Hafiz's body suffers from sugar deprivation, she is thrown into flashbacks from her abusive family life. These flashbacks propel her into the need to understand herself and to rise above those beginnings. ... (read more)

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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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Babylon is Fallen
by Carl Perrin
Sea Change Publications

Hank Snyder is a man with a taste for the finer things in life. He likes his suits expensive, his Scotch top-notch, and his women young and alluring. The pounding rain is an irritant, but he won't let the elements interfere with his weekly rendezvous with love or, at the very least, lust. ... (read more)

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Mary Lou's Brew
by Jennifer Craig
Friesen Press

The Dean of the Academy of Sophists has a problem. Her department is about to be run off campus—literally. The proposed new site seems nice enough, albeit built on a former graveyard, but it forms a sort of exile across town from the main campus. ... (read more)

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