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Featured Book Reviews

 

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 ideas without generating their own. ... (read more)

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Resetting Your Career

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Upsizing in a Downsizing World: Lessons Learned and Tips to Get You Back on Your Feet after Job Loss
by Jeannette Chau
iUniverse

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"Losing a job is like losing a family. You go through a similar grieving process."

The days are long gone during which workers could expect to remain with the same company for decades, and then receive a gold watch and a comfortable pension upon retirement. Now, downsizing is commonplace as companies struggle to maintain a competitive edge in a difficult economy. After being downsized, Chau, like so many others, struggled for months to find a new job. She also dealt with challenging emotions ranging from anger at being let go to grief over losing her connection to a place where she'd shared many happy memories with coworkers. She decided to write her book to help others successfully cope with sudden job loss, both emotionally and practically. ... (read more)

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A New Life in America

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A Boy From Cuba
by Peter H. Sust
Tate Publishing

reviewed by Carol Davala

"That is always my philosophy; the best is yet to come."

With recollections of the small Cuban fishing village where he grew up, Peter Sust can remember playing ball with Fidel Castro's son, meeting the renowned American writer, Ernest Hemingway, and having the anti-capitalist, guerilla leader, Che Guevara as a neighbor. For the young Sust, it seemed a relatively carefree time. But with military vehicles appearing in the streets and Castro's mounting political takeover, Sust's parents made a wise and conscious decision to send their children out of the country. Soon thereafter, eleven-year-old Sust and his sister, each with five dollars and a 24K gold watch, boarded a plane to start life anew with relatives in the US. ... (read more)

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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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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 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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Our Shared Experience

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In Awe of Being Human: A Doctor's Stories from the Edge of Life and Death
by Betsy MacGregor, M.D.
Abiding Nowhere Press

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"...I believe suffering can give people a greater capacity to love. And it's the loving we do that heals the suffering we've undergone."

Many medical students wish to become doctors out of a keen desire to save lives—or at least attempt to do so. When they begin their hospital rotations; however, any lingering naivete quickly vanishes the first time they must deliver bad news to family members. Such was the case for Dr. MacGregor, who witnessed first-hand the "soul-stretching" experiences of the deepest love and the darkest agony. ... (read more)

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Adventure with a Romantic Twist

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The Black Diamond
by Luis Olivie
Tate Publishing

reviewed by Caroline Blaha-Black

"Kelly's eyes were full of tears. Acanalpa looked at Peter. 'You are aware of the spell that protects El Dorado, Peter?'"

Peter Lanz, a young, talented son of a Polish immigrant, embarks on a life-changing journey when he meets Morteus, a spirit who guides dying souls, while walking in the woods. He accidentally breaks the black diamond sitting on the top of Morteus' staff. To restore the diamond, Morteus gives him three tasks to accomplish: to rescue a girl called Kelly, who has been lost in the famed city of El Dorado; to deliver a document from a dead scientist to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City that points... (read more)

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A Timeless Read

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The Sound of Water: A Psychology of the Soul
by Joshua K. Linden
Turning Stone Press

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

"Perfection exists only in and through the Source.
The love that flows through the Source is perfect love.
In the Source all plurality ends - everything is indistinguishable from everything else."

The author tells us that this book "draws from psychology, philosophy, and religion," and this is evident in his writing, although the religious focus is mostly Christian. There are 143 pages, beginning with an introductory note and a diagram of a common human experience relating to the Mind, Ego, Soul, and Source. The prelude offers a short story, there is an introduction to the book, and 79 chapters on the journey into Soul with an interlude between them. ... (read more)

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Historical Intrigue

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The Goa File: Argentina 1945-1983
by James G. Skinner
Cyberwit.net

reviewed by Anita Lock

"Just try to stop this government from committing suicide. Remember, if the Americans sit on the fence, we've had it."

The year is 1982 and Joe Friedberg and his dismantling crew board the Gaviota, an Argentine navel ship. Joe, an entrepreneur of sorts, has recently purchased the deeds to a defunct Edinburgh company. His first scrap metal project—one that he's been planning for years—is to go to South Georgia Island. Southeast of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia was once a whaling hub, but now a ghost town of empty industrial buildings. Of course, since it is under British rule though a part of the Patagonian Shelf (adjoining Uruguay and Argentina), Joe is wise to seek governmental blessings for his commercial jaunt. Even though he's been warned of political tension, Joe has no idea of all the events that are about unfold, let alone the people involved. ... (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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Retired and Enjoying It

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Retiring? Beware!! Don't Run Out of Money and Don't Become Bored
by Michael Bivona, CPA
iUniverse

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

"My writings are not meant to advise people in financial matters or how to keep busy during retirement; my objective is to show how my wife Barbara and I planned for our retirement and managed to succeed in most of our planning."

This 238-page book regarding retirement examines a variety of issues through 13 chapters. The beginning of the book offers a look into developing retirement plans and issues of the new millennium regarding retirees. This is revealed through statistics such as the increased number of baby boomers, financial changes in the world, and the financial crash of 2000 and the impact its had on people today. Chapters Three and Four, which constitute much of the readings, are about the author, his family, and their leisure activities such as dancing, tennis, golf, boating, writing, collecting books, reading, exercising, and traveling. ... (read more)

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Predators at Home

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Cage Without Bars: A Forrest Spencer Novel
by Gerald Neufeld
Novel Voices Press

reviewed by John E. Roper

"He'll use my weaknesses against me to make changes in our relationship and our home that he's wanted for years. I have no choice but to go along with them."

Life sometimes offers us seemingly impossible choices. We may want to do the right thing in the right way, but at times the price that those around us will pay for our taking the straight path appears too steep. So we either sit and do nothing, which is also a choice, or we make the tough call and hope and pray that while we may not survive the aftermath of what we do that hopefully the ones we have sacrificed so much to save will be okay in the end. This is the dilemma that Lucy faces in Neufeld's legal thriller about shattered dreams and domestic depravity. ... (read more)

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Leaving Cuba, Finding Home

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Cuba, Adios
by Lorenzo Pablo Martinez
CreateSpace

reviewed by John E. Roper

"Memories tend to fade with the passage of time, but when an event affects a person's life in profound ways, it retains its vibrancy over the years."

Just as a storm at sea can sometimes suck unsuspecting fish from the water miles from shore and then dump them inland, so, too, can people get caught up in events that rip them from the lives they have always known and plant them in new places. Wars and natural disasters are the usual culprits, creating thousands of refugees and displaced people who often struggle to survive in their new surroundings. But occasionally the reasons are more political and ideological in nature. ... (read more)

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The Human Condition

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Nuggets: Short Story Treasures
by Al Burrelli
Xlibris

reviewed by Caroline Blaha-Black

"He lifted her pillow from under her head. He placed it over her face and pressed down on it, first softly and then with increasing force."

Al Burrelli’s short stories run the gamut from young love to darkness and despair, but they always illuminate the human condition, as well as the myriad successes and travails that can occur in life. The stories are short and deliver their point quickly, so the reader can be satisfied at each conclusion. The stories are mostly set in New York, such as in the middle of Manhattan, or in a public park, but some are set in more unusual places, such as a log cabin or a fancy manor. ... (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 Question of Ethics

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Next of Kin: A Death Valley Mystery
by Melissa M. Garcia
iUniverse

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

"Stellar scanned the article. A man had apparently sent in a letter to the paper, claiming responsibility for both of the recent murders. He wrote that the men had been known to the community as abusers and needed to be removed from his peaceful city. The supposed killer signed his letter The Coyote."

This is the second book in the Death Valley Mysteries, although it is also works as a stand-alone novel. In 205 pages, the book offers numerous mysteries within the main story. Homicide Detective Stellar has his hands full with all the suspects regarding the murders in his town. Stellar also struggles with personal issues including the arrest and incarceration of his brother... (read more)

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A Path to Integrated Living

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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... (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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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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Serene Maiden
by James G. Skinner
Cyberwit.net

Hotel Bahia in springtime Spain seems like a lovely place, except for the dead Brit swinging from the ceiling fixture. Appearing like a suicide, at least one aspect isn’t right: The knife that cut the cord used for the hanging isn’t present. ... (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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