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The US Review of Books connects authors with professional book reviewers and gets their book reviews in front of more than 14,000 subscribers to our free monthly newsletter of fiction book reviews and nonfiction book reviews. Read author and publisher testimonials about the USR.

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Focus Review
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The Festival of Insignificance
by Milan Kundera
Haper


"People meet... without realizing that they’re talking to one another across a distance, each from an observation post standing in a different place in time."

With The Festival of insignificance, Milan Kundera completes a series of short philosophical treatises, loosely shaped around a fictional narrative involving the life, and mostly thoughts, of characters converging on a cocktail party. The party is a fraud, as it is to honor a man who has lied about a terminal illness. The internal monologues that dominate the narrative become a metaphor for the beauty of insignificance. ... (read more)

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Featured Book Reviews

 

The Johns Saga Begins

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The Lion Trees, Part One: Unraveling
by Owen Thomas
OTF Literary

reviewed by Mihir Shah

"Love will not be banished, nor longing consumed; fates reserved for the heart and the will."

Owen Thomas’ Lion Trees: Part One: Unraveling can be anointed any number of superlatives to showcase its brilliance; highly addictive, spectacular, and mind blowing will have to suffice. Thomas is a wizard of fiction, and his novel a captivating gem that engulfs the reader from the beginning. Whether it's the reliability factor, exhilarating plot arcs, or the deep allegiances built with the characters, this novel is brought to life in the readers’ mind. Lion Trees is primarily written from the perspective of the Johns family: Hollis, the patriarch by any definition; Susan, the abiding housewife for four decades; David and Susan, siblings who are polar opposites, and yet, strangely similar in their misery. ... (read more)

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The Journey

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Never Isn’t Long Enough
by F. Diane Pickett
Uphill Publishing

reviewed by Uphill Publishing

"Her greatest attribute—or perhaps her greatest flaw—was her determination. It was as fierce as her temper and never left her, no matter how hard things became."

The South—warts and all—are on full display in this sweeping novel that covers multiple decades and generations. While characters and events stack up like crumpled cars on a zero-visibility freeway in the fog, it’s the lifelong relationship between one man and one woman that sits at the heart of this homage to a way of life long past. ... (read more)

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Suspense Writer on the Rise

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Shadow of Guilt
by Samuel Jay
Infinity Publishing

reviewed by John E. Roper

"Shelley grabbed the bedcovers and pushed them against the opening under the door just as it caught fire and singed her face and hair."

Life is filled with pivotal moments. Getting up the courage to ask a colleague out on a date might lead to a lifetime of marital happiness or the awkwardness of rejection. Quitting a stable company to take a job with a promising new one could make a career or break it. In the author's novel the plot hinges on three fateful decisions by the main character. Two will ultimately plunge his life, career, and family into chaos and heartbreak, but the third could very well bring about his salvation. ... (read more)

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An Exceptional Read

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Montpelier Tomorrow
by Marylee MacDonald
All Things That Matter Press

reviewed by Anita Lock

"You can't really free yourself from love though, nor from the surprise that middle-age doesn't mean you have more time for yourself."

Fifty-three-year old Colleen Gallagher has gone through her fair share of personal loss. Not only widowed at a young age, she was also left to care for her young family while pregnant with her third child. Now a few years after caring for and then finally losing her ailing mother, Colleen plans to run interference for her daughter Sandy and family since Sandy is close to expecting her second child. But on the day of her arrival... (read more)

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A Promising Debut

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The Sense of Touch: Stories
by Ron Parsons
Aqueous Books

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

"Touch is silent. And silence is the only way to contemplate infinite things."

Storyteller Ron Parsons offers eight tales, each dealing with touch, connection, and how we humans figure out what works or doesn’t, between us. In the title story, a writing student learns a “stone cold fact” that will help him deal with one relationship in tatters and an alluring but unsettling invitation to a new one. “Hezekiah Number Three” lays bare the slow self-destruction of a young Asian man tired of being alone in a foreign land, orphaned, unappreciated. ... (read more)

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The Heart of a Devil

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Lucifer's Son: The Temptation Chronicles, Book One
by Sergey Mavrodi
W & B Publishers

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"The world around him withered, bleached; it lost color, grew dim, and lost all its beauty. There was nothing to watch, nothing to read, and no one to talk to."

It has been said that there is nothing more frightening than being alone with one’s thoughts. That can frequently be applied to curling up with a book of horror, the supernatural, or the occult. It can definitely be applied to Russian author, Sergey Mavrodi’s latest offering. Here, in one volume, are enough thought-provoking, fear-inducing, and in some cases stomach-churning tales to keep even the most courageous reader looking over his or her shoulder. ... (read more)

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Modern Family

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Second Thoughts, Second Chances
by D.C. Moses
Xlibris

reviewed by Peter M. Fitzpatrick

"Viktor took another good long look at all the Clinton Street his eyes could take in. 'Where have all the immigrants gone?' he hummed to himself."

First generation children of Polish immigrants to the U.S., Mitchell and Viktor Kipnis have reached retirement age. Mitchell’s declining health leads him from the West Coast, where he led a successful career in aeronautics, back home to Thompsonville to live with his cousin Viktor. Paul Kipnis, son of Mitchell, now in his thirties, is also there. Mitchell and Paul are soon introduced to Corrina, a vibrantly attractive adoptive daughter of Viktor's, now in her twenties. ... (read more)

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Excellent Stories

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Bonds of Love & Blood
by Marylee MacDonald
Summertime Publications

reviewed by Caroline Blaha-Black

"What was wrong now had been wrong in the beginning. She had married Ashok out of necessity."

In her collection of twelve brilliantly-written short stories, MacDonald explores the pain and beauty of human relationships. MacDonald’s writing is raw and visceral, creating a strong emotional connection between her characters and the reader. The stories ring true when it comes to the many experiences and nuances of human relationships, such as love, divorce, and physical distance. The author, who is a winner of several literary prizes, delivers rich, full characters, who hold our interest and refuse to leave us until the end. ... (read more)

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Strength of Heart

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Spinner
by Michael J. Bowler
Young Dudes Publishing

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"One by one each boy placed his fist atop each other's, and the pact was sealed."

To all appearances, Alex Miracle is a typical urban teenager, albeit one who is confined to a wheelchair. He contends with bullies at school, defies house rules, and struggles to fit in. Alex is far from typical, however. He is a "spinner" with unimaginable talents. He's a foster child who has a murderous, backstabbing house "mother." He's street smart and wise beyond his years, despite being placed in a special education class. ... (read more)

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Sisterhood

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Saluting the Sun
by Mary Hutchings Reed
Ampersand

reviewed by Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW

"'Your address?' librarian Judith Scott asked, friendly enough at first.... 'Tree house, Third Oak Up from the Second Downstream Bend in Farmer Jones' Creek, Prairie du Chien,' she said proudly."

The book is set on a collision course for two cousins, Nevaeh Thera, a college graduate, petty thief, and street performer who plays a glass harmonica and wine glasses, to meet up with Dawn Ann McKnight, a TV meteorologist, and her slacker photographer husband, Derek. Life intercedes prior to their contact—Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards)—moves around the country, first living with her boyfriend Tray and her pet rat Tara. When Tray decides to leave and join the establishment, Nevaeh moves to New Orleans and hooks up with Phil, another street artist. ... (read more)

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Life Lived Fully

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Rambler Rose
by Teri Metcalf
Xlibris

reviewed by John E. Roper

"Rambler Rose had been with me during all my growing up years, and I felt that its presence in our house had helped me remember who I was especially when I was having difficulties with my stepfather."

One of the most common pieces of advice given to inexperienced writers is for them to write about what they know. The reason for this is simple. There is a richness that emerges when we write about what we are most familiar with, a natural handling of details and an inherent depth that serve to give the story something more than a simple tale of fiction can ever hope to offer. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that memoirs, even ones about people far removed from the spotlight of celebrity, tend to appeal to us. ... (read more)

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Bold Sci-Fi

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Alien Mysteries: The Earthling
by Robert Kriete

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"It is an accepted fact that energy is eternal. It can neither be created from nothing, nor can it be destroyed; it can only be transformed."

For nearly a week, a man is missing in Death Valley, California. When he is found, surprisingly he is not only alive, but he is healthy and virtually untarnished by his ordeal. On the way back to the bosom of his wife and grandchildren, he recounts an incredible story to his son. It is a story of epic proportion—too fantastic to be believed yet too detailed to be fabricated. ... (read more)

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A New Thriller

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Driller
by M. S. Holm
Great West Publishing

reviewed by Michael Radon

"When monsoon clouds rushed east to the cordillera, he watched the distant etching of mercurial drops."

Retch Barter and his partner Digger are in Mexico in search of gold and on the run from their own separate but equally checkered pasts. Dig, as he is more commonly known, is more prone to violence, drinking, and other acts of debauchery. Retch is no saint either, but seems to quietly atone more for the decisions that led to his life south of the border. So when the two men arrive at Rancho Anguamea in search of clean water and instead meet the jaded and impoverished Dolores Anguamea, their attitudes cause their paths to diverge. ... (read more)

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The Deciding Moment

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Miracle of the Call: 20th Century Heroes and Heroines
by Donna A Ford
WestBow Press

reviewed by Priscilla Estes

"…every person confessed that something unusual happened to change their life story…something beyond themselves. And that is probably the best description of a miracle call."

In this gem of a young adult book, Ford defines “the call” as that moment when someone realizes the task for which he was created and accepts the challenge. The call is “believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” ... With superb focus, clarity and organization, Ford pinpoints these pivotal moments in the lives of seventeen 20th century people, selected by their universally acknowledged benefit to humanity. ... (read more)

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The Immortal Soul

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The Real You Is Immortal: Whether You Like It Or Not!
by William F. Pillow, Jr.
CreateSpace

reviewed by Donna Ford

"You like me, may have a nagging feeling about never seeing your loved ones again."

William Pillow showed little interest in the idea of an immortal soul until his wife of 57 years was facing her death. As most people, he simply acquiesced with what the church taught, while as a scientist he was skeptical of anything paranormal. Why the sudden change that is documented in his book? At times when there is little that can be done, people turn back to what they are gifted at. Being a pharmacist and scientist, Pillow began to study about the subject of life and after life. ... (read more)

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Divorce is Not an Ending

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From Mrs. to Ms.: How to Pull Your Life Together When Your Marriage Falls Apart
by Rita Magalde
Sheer Ambrosia Publishing

reviewed by Michael Radon

"It took me years to come to these very real conclusions. For a long time, I tortured myself with half-truths and just plain fiction."

Functioning as both an autobiography and a self-help guide, the author of this book reviews the messy dissolution of her marriage, the ugly aftermath, and the beautiful rebirth that followed. Magalde and her husband met in Spain as she was studying abroad and had a whirlwind romance that quickly resulted in marriage. But with family on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, differing opinions and outlooks that only became apparent after matrimony, and a growing distance between them, divorce loomed overhead even with a second child on the way. ... (read more)

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Facing Your Demons

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I Am Sunshine: One Woman's Journey to Heal from Childhood Sexual Abuse
by Trish Egan
CDT Publishing

reviewed by Anita Lock

"I had always thought I was a confident individual, but when I peeled back the onion, all I found at the core was a coward."

Ten years into her marriage, Idalia faces an identity crisis with the reappearance of one of her abusers and ironically earmarked as a longtime friend of the family. Switching over to a teenage persona—a combination of provocative dress and engaging in drugs and alcohol, Idalia blatantly disregards her marriage to Jay as she gets involved with Keegan, a new love in her life. With her life spiraling out of control, Idalia seeks counseling. It is the first time she realizes that she needs to address her past. What follows is an in-depth four-year description of Idalia's journey into self-awareness and spiritual healing. ... (read more)

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The Source of Troubled Education

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Where the Finger Points: A Teacher's Story of Violence in School and a Discussion of Who's Also Responsible
by Sean M. Brooks
CreateSpace

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"An adult's tone of voice can change the mind of a young person forever."

During the 2010 to 2011 school year, there were at least 11 homicides of youth ages five through eighteen at school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The following year, the CDC reported approximately 749,000 "nonfatal violent victimizations" that targeted students ages twelve through eighteen. School is not the safe haven that it ought to be—a problem that has been made abundantly clear judging by the recent, well-publicized school shootings throughout the country. When reports of school violence make the headlines, public reaction is swift to make a scapegoat of lax gun control laws, mental disorders, and even parents. ... (read more)

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A Soldier's Story

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Shot Down
by Steve Snyder
Sea Breeze Publishing

reviewed by John E. Roper

"While standing there, Minet glanced over at the trucks and saw Joseph Simon in one, his face bloodied, and realized the worst had happened; the Americans had been discovered."

Howard Snyder, pilot of the B-17 Susan Ruth was "a little apprehensive" when he learned that he and his crew would be taking the same position in flight formation of a bomber that had been lost in a similar raid on Frankfurt four days earlier, but he had learned in the few short months of training and combat to not let fear and nerves affect him before a mission. However, February 8, 1944, would prove to be a fateful day for the plane's crew and their families stateside when the Susan Ruth was suddenly "shot down" over Belgium. ... (read more)

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Ordinary Life Through God

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Grace Period: My Ordination to the Ordinary
by Melinda Worth Popham
iUniverse

reviewed by Carol Anderson, D. Min., ACSW, LMSW

"Most of the time I go around on the default setting of myself - the one that says I'm a very nice person. Thoughts matter, all those judgmental, gossipy, mean-spirited, one-down, depressing thoughts I have, but they don't count against me - against my self-image, I mean - the way what I do does."

A story of one woman's triumph over adversity, this autobiography is infused with Popham's religious and spiritual beliefs and her encounters with divinity. The topics explored are ones that most people experience: love, loss, loneliness, death, trauma, pain, joy, happiness, sadness, fun, abandonment, and creativity. The author paints a descriptive picture of what was missing in her life—a needed connection to the blessed and holy through pain—what she relates to as the Miracle Go of her spiritual life. In a heartfelt manner, she examine's her own thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. ... (read more)

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Harnessing the Spirit Powers

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Spirits of the Plains
by Daniel G. Matuzas
CreateSpace

reviewed by Michael Radon

"Without hesitation Stone took advantage of the distraction grabbing the guard's hair and pulling his head back, slitting the throat in the same motion."

For the native peoples of the plains, magic is very real and involves the use of spirits that are always around, eager to rejoin the world of living humans that they once belonged to. A female with the power to use the spirits is trained to become a shaman, serving as a healer and mystic for the tribe while also often being treated as an outcast. Legend says, however, that men who can use spirits are driven insane by them, murdering friend and foe alike with no regard for safety or control. Chief Windsong's son Wing has those powers, but he and the shamans conspired to keep that ability a secret so that he would not be cast out from the tribe into the wilderness alone. However, when Wing realizes he has these powers, it is not long before he has no choice but to use them. ... (read more)

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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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The Art of Hero Worship
by Mia Kerick
CoolDudes Publishing

Without warning, or any background whatsoever, the reader is plunged into the middle of an unimaginably horrible situation—a mass murder in a crowded theater. Except you can imagine it, because you’re inside the head of one of the terrified audience members. The fear is omnipresent. The chilling sounds of repeated gunfire are maddening. The thoughts careening around the mind of the first-person narrator are excruciatingly real. ... (read more)

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