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Featured Book Reviews

 

Life As We Know It

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Badlands
by Thomas Biel
Three Towers Press


"I wanted my own bed and my own ceiling, something confined, not the vastness of the stars, the puzzle of endlessness. I wanted to go home but I couldn't move."

Some writers have mastered the art of spinning fantastic tales, trotting out lies of mystery, romance, and high adventure that while barely believable still manage to entertain us. Others choose to cut closer to the bone of truth, making us turn to the author's blurb at the back of the book to see whether or not what we are reading is fiction or fact. Biel falls into this latter camp with his debut collection of linked stories, episodes from the life of his youthful protagonist, Matthew Davis, that seem too painfully real to be imaginary. ... (read more)

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Sensual Intimacy, Sacred Power

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All of Me Wants All of You
by J Z Howard
ALL4U


"Regardless of how lonely and disconnected it felt,... the dream of sexual enjoyment and intimate connection with Kate remained dim."

This is an intricate story about love—between men and women, between people and God. Seasoned author J. Z. Howard has taken a running leap at an unusual subject: how people whose lives are grounded in Christianity deal with, or don't, problems of marriage and faithfulness. Kate and Dean are trying to regain their wedded bliss in the face of encroaching middle age, while single mom Larissa is looking for some quick solace as she despairs of raising her teenage son. When Larissa and Dean meet, it looks as though things will take a conventional turn: lonely man whose wife's affections have grown cold bedding a charmer who has always had sex first and love later. ... (read more)

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Imagination and History

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Nelson's Castle: A Bronte Fairy Tale
by Susanne Petito-Egielski
Amuninni Press


"Justice. That's what burns in all our eyes. That's what brings us hope. That's what we live for. That's how we die."

It's easy to get lost in the multi-faceted draw of Susanne Petito-Egielski's novel. Rooted in the history of her own grandmother's hometown of Bronte, the author entertains readers with a captivating mid-19th century fairytale, ensconced in the tradition of castles, hierarchy, forests and beasts, a peasant heroine, magic, and madness. ... Against the backdrop of Mt. Etna, aka "Mungibellu," the one-eyed monster, the bewitching peasant girl Gratia Maria Saitta, yearns for her mother Agata's love. ... (read more)

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A Life Worth Remembering

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Loving Andrew: A Fifty-Two-Year Story of Down Syndrome
by Romy Wyllie
CreateSpace


"...Andrew touched the lives of many, helping them in his special way become better people."

In today's world of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it can be unfathomable to imagine a time in which babies born with disabilities were routinely separated from their parents. Yet, a mere five decades ago, it was commonplace. Often, mothers were not even told that their babies had survived the delivery. Instead of reconnecting mother and child, the doctors would whisk the child away to an institution, where he would live a grim existence and would often be sterilized against his will. Andrew Wyllie, the subject of this book, would have suffered the same fate had it not been for the love, determination, and perseverance of his parents. ... (read more)

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This Actor's Life

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North of Hollywood
by Rick Lenz
Chromodroid


"If the audience could see inside me—at least as well as I can see out the window in the extraordinary light—they might realize that I’m youthful and charming…"

Rick Lenz is an actor.  Most people don't know the simple truth that he reveals in this captivating autobiography: Actors are real people, and acting is a real job. Tall and handsome but not "pretty" he was able to morph into a villain, a troubled teen, or the occasional edgy lead. Durable actor Lenz, who once aspired to be a doctor or a lawyer, appeared in numerous movies (notably Cactus Flower with Goldie Hawn), TV shows (Murder, She Wrote), and every sort of stage production from summer stock to Broadway to off-off Broadway, to state fairs and just about anywhere he could make a living. ... (read more)

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The Messiah in You

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Educating Messiahs
by Colin Hannaford
Trafford Publishing


"In general, the aim of a messiah is to show that everyone shares the responsibility for making peace or making war. Everyone has this choice. We have it now."

At 17, Colin Hannaford joined the British army. Twelve years later, now a staff officer, his protest at his government's attempt to use military force to solve a major social problem led to him being held for some weeks in a military psychiatric hospital. Though an unjust holding, there he experienced a religious awakening, similar to that of the great Catholic Theologian, Thomas Aquinas. In asking for God's help, Hannaford recalled a strong embracing figure responding "How can you be afraid? You are of me." Told to "Be honest!", it was a message that Hannaford soon realized was meant for everyone. ... (read more)

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Poetic Images

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Shattering Porcelain Images
by Diane Elliott
SG Publishing


"Grandma knits, shrouded
In the scent of honey
bees filled in combs built
between her rafters..."

Elliott's heartfelt poetry collection evokes nostalgia, images of the past, and long-lost memories. The poet touches everyday experiences, such as family, daily activities, love, and images of nature. Her poetry creates strong visual imagery and gives readers a glimpse into the poet's life. Her poems are presented as free-verse, and the text flows down the page in tight columns, occasionally punctuated by black and white photographs. The collection conjures a certain lightness of feeling, as is evident in most of her pieces. ... (read more)

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Business with Heart and Soul

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Intelligence and Compassion in Action: The 7 Pillars for Social Enterprise
by Lauren Speeth MBA, DBA, DMin
Elfenworks Productions LLC


"It is time to alter the way we operate. I consider it important and possible to be both rational and systematic in making a transformational difference on large-scale problems."

Basing her idealistic view of social entrepreneurship on lessons learned from President Jimmy Carter, non-profit business activist Lauren Speeth has created a methodology that she believes can change the way businesses are initiated, run, and maintained. Carter, noted for his involvement in charitable initiatives, offered her seven suggestions for selecting among a variety of projects: (1) keep your vision, (2) use your special skills, (3) fill a gap, (4) cultivate partnerships, (5) share credit, (6) create a feedback loop, and (7) look at the long term from the beginning. ... (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


"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 ideas without generating their own. Once they begin reading the classics, their language and imaginative skills change noticeably for the better. Citing many examples, she demonstrates how these books contain moral story lines, excitement, mystery, and romance. ... (read more)

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A Cautionary Tale

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Only Human
by Terance Wall
Trafford Publishing


"I graduated through vet school within an inch of my life with a degree in veterinary science, an established drink problem, a severe paranoid psychosis and a three year driving ban."

While in veterinary college, a disadvantaged man from Lancashire, England discovers the segregating effects of the British class system and takes refuge in alcohol. Cannabis and LSD soon follow as he steam shovels into the bowels of hell, dragging a diagnosis of schizophrenia with him. Unwilling to take his meds, Wall begins to communicate telepathically, gets "caught" in other peoples' auras, and deciphers secret messages from everyday numbers: "…the sky was spray-painted with equations." While in the midst of madness, Wall amazingly retains enough sanity to observe his fascinating journey down the rabbit hole and share well-written, chronological recollections of a life fraught... (read more)

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A Writer's Writer

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Short Fiction for an Absurd World
by Bronwyn Rodden
CreateSpace


"I had caught a dose of assertivelessness from the laundromat lady and paid the fruiterer with hardly a grumble."

With a bent on the curious details, the awkward moments of life, and downright dark secrets and closeted skeletons, this collection of short stories spans more than two decades of the author's work. From horrific stories of a honeymoon turned grotesque and a woman putting herself quite literally into her weaving work to an escape from the most mundane of offices and a series of chance encounters with a well-shouldered gentleman with a fussy eating dog, these stories cross genres and tones to provide a truly wide array of elicited emotions. ... (read more)

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The Value of Friendships

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Finding Flipper Frank
by Patrick M. Garry
Kenric Books


"Only in the Oakdale Nursing Home could a 38-year-old man be called a boy. But Walt liked it. It made him feel, even if ever so briefly, that the years since that October night of 1980 had never occurred."

Set in the 1990's, the author tells the tale/tail of finding Flipper Jack, a delightful fish story—both literally and figuratively. This is a trip through life that Walt Honerman never expected. On a journey that he wasn't convinced he wanted to take, to see Cal Ripken set the record for playing consecutive baseball games, he comes across two of his uncle's friends who wish to ride with him on his journey from Montana to Maryland. He is making this journey due to the death of his uncle, Henry Honerman, who had encouraged this trip. ... (read more)

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Truth in Understanding

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The Cockroach Invasion
by Dr. Sherry L. Meinberg
Archway Publishing


"We do not have to kiss frogs, bats, skunks, or cockroaches; we only need to respect the 'unloved' creatures with which we share the world."

The Cockroach Invasion is based on a true story that took place among a class of third graders. Meinberg's eleventh educational book focuses on gaining knowledge to build a healthy respect for all creatures, especially ones that nobody loves. Meinberg grabs the attention of school-aged readers by opening her narrative with a scene that takes place in the Boys' Room. Unbeknownst to the girls standing outside the lavatory who hear a lot of shouting and stamping of feet, the boys are having a game with a slew of cockroaches that are madly crawling on the bathroom floor. ... (read more)

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Journey of Four

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Yours Forever ... Maybe
by MK
Lane Unlimited


"To love and be loved is the ultimate human quest, but inner peace is the true reward."

In a gentle nod to the glitz and glamour of popular Jackie Collins type novels, MK presents a smart character driven work that focuses on four uniquely, strong women, headed down very different paths. Readers meet Marla, the central ingenue dealing with the imposing aftermath of divorce from her cheating, actor husband. With new career skills and a cautious heart, she begins to take charge of her life, and eventually opens herself to happier times, enhanced by the charms of a foreign financier. Throughout Marla's journey, the supporting cast is interestingly woven into the storyline. ... (read more)

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The Brutal, Human Side of War

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Not Just Another War Story
by Wayne G MacDowell
DocUmeant Publishing


"Sometimes it panned out, while other times it would turn out to be just a wartime romance, not unlike a summer fling."

Not Just Another War Story is a link to America's past, one that is filled with tremendous sacrifice and unprecedented acts of heroism from unexpected sources. Although this novel focuses centrally on Pappy's Pack and the crew of the 305th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, it is representative of the more than forty bomb groups that participated in World War II. From the beginning, the narrative features a strong sense of realism and meticulous attention to detail that transports readers directly into above-the air action. While there is far more narration than necessary, MacDowell's novel is an undeniable showcase of ceaseless effort in accruing factual accounts of World War II. ... (read more)

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Finding God

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Grieving the Loss of Religion
by Rafael Chodos
Giotto Multimedia


"So let us walk that path together to a place where it may be possible to hold a vibrant conversation with God directly, after transcending religion."

A quick read into the author's belief system, this text is divided into the Preface, three chapters, and two interludes. Chapter One relates the author's work toward outgrowing his Judaism, while the first Interlude is in regard to his grief and confusion about this metamorphosis. Chapter Two explores his own truth about God, with the second Interlude regarding articles of faith being reconsidered into what is the present Canon and what is "The Truth." The third chapter discusses the life-cycles of the sacred texts... (read more)

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Classic Sci-Fi

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Rescue Mission
by A. Bradbury
CreateSpace


"What do we know about the Merliss really? Humanoid bodies… but all we see are suits with opaque face covers. We have learned some things about their technology. We know they are kidnappers."

These speculations, verbalized by young Tommy to his fellow abductees in the quotation above, are posed while they're hurtling through space on a craft operated by the mysterious Merliss. Suspicion, intrigue, and excitement abound among this band of teens beamed up suddenly, told only that they have been chosen to perform a rescue. The boys are a mixed bag: Tommy Barnes is "the big fat kid" with muscle as well as bulk; David appears to be "Mr. Average" but has hidden depths; Paul Walker is "unbelievably cute"; Carl Nash has thick glasses and an encyclopedic brain; Murray is the jock... (read more)

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Joy and Heartbreak in Liberia

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Liberia: Emerging from the Shadows
by Wayne Schoenfeld
New Democracy Productions


"Our liaison from the Minister of Information explained to us that acid attacks on women were, in his words, 'unfortunately common.' The phrase stuck in my head."

Words are often insufficient to truly capture the scope of tragedy, which is one reason why author's work is so effective. It is impossible for a reader to experience this poignant documentary photo book without feeling moved by the suffering that Liberians have endured for so many years. Schoenfeld, a veteran filmmaker, accompanied a humanitarian medical mission comprised of volunteer healthcare providers who wished to offer a glimmer of hope to disfigured patients in war-ravaged Liberia. The volunteers were organized together under Rotaplast International... (read more)

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Family Challenges

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One More Dance
by Valentine Cardinale
Outskirts Press


"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 but find out who committed this crime and why. ... (read more)

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True Pathos

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World's Fair: A Memoir
by James Stack
CreateSpace


"Daddy began twisting like a caged beast, bucking like a horse that didn't want to be tamed. His expression was twisted with fury and madness."

Children instinctively seek provision and protection from their parents. A love bond develops early and is generally reciprocated. A fierce loyalty emerges, one that sometimes causes children and parents to make tremendous sacrifices for each other. But what happens when something interferes with that love bond, an intruder that shorts it out either periodically or permanently? Stack's heart-wrenching memoir tells the painful story of how during a life-changing road trip his father's alcoholism succeeded in fraying most of the final cords that were keeping him attached to his children. ... (read more)

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Kerouac After the Road

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Jack's Memoirs: Off the Road
by Kurt Landefeld
Bottom Dog Press


"After a while, you knew. You knew when talk turned from soul-baring to pure bullshit even before yours became an incoherent ramble."

The real Jack Kerouac died of internal bleeding after years of hard drinking in 1969. But what if he had taken another tack, had recovered from his downward spiral? This unique novel bravely throws out this audacious conceit, and then methodically delivers. Framed on the familiar Kerouac travelogue-meditation device, the now even more underground Kerouac has grown a beard and disguised himself, embarking on a journey from his mother's house in Florida to the hills of North Carolina. ... (read more)

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An Eye-Opener

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The Myths of Safe Pesticides
by André Leu
Acres U.S.A.


"One of the reasons for this book is my observation of so much illness in our communities, especially cancers, behavioral disorders, and degenerative diseases."

The Myths of Safe Pesticides addresses the five most-repeated myths about the regulation of toxic chemicals and debunks these myths based on hundreds of published, peer-reviewed science studies that critically question the safety issues around that regulation. Leu, President of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements—the world umbrella body for the organic sector—offers a compelling body of evidence against the use of pesticides. ... (read more)

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An Epic Dystopian Tale

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Broken
by Traci L. Slatton
Parvati Press


"I come from a world of light, to which I will never return."

Broken is the story of an angel's journey when she chooses to take on human form during one of the most prolific yet horrendous periods in France's history. Assuming the life of a poet under the name Alia Mercer, she claims that she is "an angel who threw herself away" so she could satisfy the lusts of the flesh. Aware that evil is about to overtake Paris and the Jewish race, the archangel Michael reminds her that she is an angel who just "lost her way" and has at her disposal one act of grace. It is up to Alia whether she will use this powerful healing moment or not. ... (read more)

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Noteworthy Poetry

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The Sun God is a Ham
by Gene Hull
La Maison Publishing


"Time waits for no man. But when a woman is putting on makeup it stands still."

Gene Hull is clearly a man with a sense of humor. In the title poem from this varied collection, he places the giant orb at center stage, and captures a detailed performance of its rise and fall across an earthly venue. It is an "uppity star" deserving of our applause. "Uncovering a poem, making it come to life, is the fun of the writing process," reveals Hull, in a personal style where form always follows substance. Whether probing age-old questions about love and time's passage, commenting on a day at the movies, or the problem with modern day hackers, readers should find these poems easily accessible with simple visual and emotional conjuring. ... (read more)

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Move into Shape

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Philly's Fit-Step Walking Diet: Lose 15 Lbs. Shape Up. Look Younger... In 21 Days!
by Fred A. Stutman, M.D.
Medical Manor Books


"The road to normal eating is to stop listening to the myriad of advice concerning what to eat, and to start following your own biological and physiological needs for essential healthy nutrients."

Individuals interested in losing weight have a dizzying array of options available to them. So many diets claim that cutting out one or more major food groups will result in lasting weight loss and health. Case in point, dieters could choose from the low-carb, no-carb, Paleo, Atkins, Dukan, or fasting diets. And as if these restrictions weren't severe enough, dieters could choose the Master Cleanse, which involves eating nothing at all for over a week and subsisting solely on a minimal calorie beverage. This "all or nothing" mindset is believed to contribute to long-term health problems, not to mention poor long-term success with weight loss, which is one reason why Dr. Stutman's plan is so refreshing. ... (read more)

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If the Animals Talked

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Endangered Species Have Feelings Too
by Alexandra Delis-Abrams, Ph.D.
Illustrations by Kim Howard
ABC Feelings


"It's going to take all of us. We can't wait for anyone else to do it. It's up to you and me!"

Endangered Species Have Feelings Too is a coloring book specifically designed to educate young readers about the current condition of endangered species in our world. The intention of Delis-Abrams' recent book is also to "empower young people so that they feel inspired to take action." ... (read more)

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The Golden Age

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Grace and Grit: Insights to Real-Life Challenges of Aging for Adult Children and Their Parents
by Fritzi Gros-Daillon
Pink Tulip Press


"I believe the world, our nation, your community, your loved ones, are facing unique challenges today when aging forces us out of our homes. These are unique challenges because the generations largely affected by this growing segment have enjoyed more freedom, more independence, and greater self-sufficiency than any generation before them."

Grace and Grit has become a popular title for books, especially since Ken Wilber's beautiful writings about the life and death of his wife. And while few people can match the work of Ken Wilber, this book, in its own way, also pays tribute to living and dying and offers heartfelt stories in this process of transition. This small, easy-to-read book offers significant insights into the world of the aging and stories of grief and joy in the challenges that face both aging parents and their adult children. Many of us are going through, or will go through, these same types of challenges. ... (read more)

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