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The US Review of Books connects authors with professional book reviewers and gets their book reviews in front of 15,000 subscribers to our free monthly newsletter of fiction book reviews and nonfiction book reviews. Learn why our publication is different than most others, or read author and publisher testimonials about the USR.

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Focus Review
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Beauty is a Wound
by Eka Kurniawan
New Directions Press


"One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead twenty-one years."

Kurniawan’s poignant and at times rollicking novel covers a century of Indonesian history from the death throes of Dutch rule, through the Japanese invasion during World War II, and into the nation’s late-century struggle for independence. Centering on the fictional shore town of Halimunda, the story covers the exploits and trials of Dewi Ayu and her four daughters, each sired by a different father during critical points of her life. These are strong if not capricious women who are self-determined and at times reckless in their path through time. ... (read more)

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Featured Book Reviews

 

A Challenging Refuge

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A Farmhouse in the Rain
by Joe Kilgore
Top Hat Books

reviewed by John E. Roper

"Paul looked down and saw the liquid on the floor wasn't just rainwater. Fatigue and nausea hit him all at once. He almost swooned and toppled over."

Paul didn't know whether they were in luck or not when he and the two soldiers under his command escaped the rain to take shelter in the humble home of Colette Auteuil in war-torn France. However, his leg wound needed treatment, and a dry bed was much better than sleeping on the soggy ground. As they ate the bread and drank the wine their hostess provided for them that night, little did they expect that events were being put in motion that would irrevocably alter not only their lives but also the lives of others connected to them a continent away. ... (read more)

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A Walk into the Unknown

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Walking to Woot
by Jackie Chase
AdventureTravelPress.com

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"How can one even begin to grasp the simple yet complex evolution of tribal society that exists much the same today as it did thousands of years ago? ... Katherine and I had many questions and few answers; but determined, we tried to grasp every concept blown our way."

Some of us long to take trips into the unknown. We wish to leave behind our material possessions, and live simpler lives. Jackie Chase did just that, for one adventure-filled month. Jackie is no stranger to travel. She's spent much of her life flitting from one place to another in search of a deeper understanding of the world's cultures. In Walking to Woot, Jackie takes the reader with her to live among the Dani people in New Guinea, Indonesia. Despite being a seasoned traveler, Jackie had her apprehensions about the potentially dangerous trip. She had good reason to: This time, she was bringing her 14 year old daughter, Katherine, with her. ... (read more)

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A Life Lived Forward

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Monk's Journey
by Walter (Monk) Reynolds
The DubHouse

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"In the meantime, Charlie had another drink and went to bed. How anyone could sleep after committing such a despicable act is beyond understanding."

Every life is a story. Autobiographies and memoirs are vehicles for recording them. While it is true that humans are all basically the same, circumstances, experiences, and how people deal with the world around them is what truly makes individuals different and in a way original. Reynolds story is true and begins in rural Florida, 1939. At first, there is almost the hint of a Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn quality to the life that is about to be shared. However, this is no tall Mark Twain tale being spun. This is the beginning for a boy who will experience fear, and pain, and darkness, not just in the pages of a book, but rather in the real world around him. ... (read more)

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A Fantastic, Gripping Read

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Visions Through a Glass, Darkly
by David I. Aboulafia
Cosmic Egg Books

reviewed by Jennifer Weiss

"The jaws of the carcass had been stretched - impossibly so it seemed - to accommodate the unrecognizable form that issued from it."

Visions follows the life of Richard Goodman, a man who runs an institution that teaches the art of watch making to young adults with disabilities. When Richard and Kara take the kids on a trip to Coney Island, a gypsy woman reads Richard his fortune and foretells his death. Not only that, but she also passes her gift on to Richard. Richard tries to figure out how he can save himself from dying in less than three days, but a new enemy arises and threatens the very life Richard is trying to save. Now Richard must also learn who this killer is and stop him before it is entirely too late. Will he succeed? ... (read more)

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The Kate and Robert Romp Continues

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You and I: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"My Robert showed me his vulnerability, and it was me. I meant so much to him as he did to me."

For Robert and Kate Beckham, the wedding is over and the honeymoon is about to begin. Fresh from their hurried matrimony in Las Vegas, the newlywed Beckhams head to San Diego for some alone time full of relaxation, sightseeing, and plenty of physical intimacy. Focused on her husband—the over-possessive, at times frighteningly intense, madly in love police officer Robert—Kate is interested only in showing her love and passion for her new husband. Pleasant times in San Diego are over in a matter of days, but Kate has her wedding reception followed by an extended honeymoon across the Atlantic to meet Robert's parents to look forward to. In the blink of an eye, the couple are off, and Kate falls in love with the natural beauty of Ireland. Also to her advantage, Robert's mother, family, and seemingly the entire village take a shine to her immediately, and she becomes a popular addition to the scenery, serving as a matchmaker to those around her stuck in unhappy relationships as she once was. ... (read more)

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Navigating the Patent Process

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The Patent Jungle: The Inventor's Friendly User Guide
by Leon Cooper
90 Day Wonder Publishing

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"That seems to be the essence of the American spirit, that there's always a less costly way, a better way, and lately, a greener way..."

Confused about the difference between trade secrets and trademarks? Not sure whether you need a utility, design, or plant patent? This is the right book for you. Cooper offers a succinct overview of patents and how to obtain them. His easy-to-understand language and straightforward approach is ideal for beginning inventors who aren't sure which step to take next to turn their visions into realities. Readers will gain valuable advice on how to consider their patent applications in light of the possible challenges to the patent's validity. ... (read more)

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Challenging Love

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Inceptions: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"Then I briefly thought about past women and quickly barred them from my brain. He was mine! He wanted me!"

Kate Quinn's life went into a downspin in a hurry. In her late 20's, Kate works as an in-home nurse with a family that loves and respects her while she also has to deal with criticisms from her own family, whom she still lives with. Topping this all off is Scott, her one and only boyfriend of six years who, as Kate has just discovered, is cheating on her. Kate cuts Scott off immediately and tries to deal with her problems with the help of two friends: Pepper, her headstrong dance instructor best friend, and alcohol. Scott is trying desperately to win Kate back, but what neither of them counted on was Robert Beckham, a police officer friend of Scott's that has been interested in Kate since they first met. ... (read more)

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Finding the Right Employees

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The Participant Principle
by Maya Middlemiss
U P Publications

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"...but try finding 9 men who a) regard themselves as poorer drivers, and b) actually want to come and discuss that fact in a group of other men..."

Middlemiss is the Managing Director of Saros Research in the United Kingdom and Casslar Consulting SL in Spain. When it comes to recruiting individuals to participate in market research, the lady knows her stuff. Unlike some business books that promise a lot and provide little, this one avoids jargon and is chock full of practical information that can be put to use virtually immediately. The author writes in a clear, candid manner that is not without a charming turn of phrase here and there. She uses actual experiences from her multi-year career... (read more)

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Frankie's Journey

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Frankie Jones
by J. R. Klein
CreateSpace

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"And so the summer days turned shorter and the nights cooler and autumn arrived in Paris and the leaves changed color and spun to the ground like painted toy helicopters."

It’s the 1990s, not the 1920s, yet echoes of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises linger in the white spaces of Klein’s beguiling novel. Instead of disillusioned youth reeling from the horror of World War I and finding solace in the cafes of Paris and the bullrings of Spain, Klein writes of the disaffected upwardly mobile seeking answers in the restaurants of La Jolla and the cantinas of Mexico. ... (read more)

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Action Packed

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Tesla
by Mark Lingane
Insync

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"They erupted out of the forest at the edge of a cliff. Michael clutched at Sebastian as he hovered over the edge, swaying above the hundred-foot plunge."

Hot-headed Sebastian is already dealing with loss when the world he knows comes crashing down around him. His quiet existence in a quaint post-apocalyptic Australian town is disrupted by dangerous cyborgs and other terrifying machines. Machine-man hybrids are cropping up wherever he goes, and they are all intent on completing their single goal: killing Sebastian. Luckily, Sebastian discovers his hidden talents as a "tesla" and learns that the only way to survive is to fight back. Haunted by his mother's past and the shadow of a 1,000-year-old prophecy, Sebastian must harness his special skills to save his own life and perhaps even the world. ... (read more)

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Ricky Learns

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Where's Roo?
by Jessica Crews
AuthorHouse

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

"Ricky-Roo pecked his way back to where he should be, and thanked God that he was able to talk, hear, and see!"

This delightful little picture book features a young rooster as the protagonist. Like all good protagonists, Ricky-Roo has a major character flaw. He is the most egocentric animal on the farm. It is Ricky's job to make sure that all of the other farm animals wake up on time, and Ricky takes his job so seriously that he believes he is the most important animal around. Clearly, Ricky needs to learn a lesson. ... (read more)

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Is the Honeymoon Over?

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Beckham 101: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"'There's my girl. Baby, you are mineall mine and only mine. I don't share.'"

Fresh from their second and full-sized honeymoon across the Atlantic, Kate and Robert Beckham are back into their routines and enjoying their lives. Resolving the cliffhanger from the previous book, Kate finds herself home alone and confronted by a jealous ex-lover of Robert's, police officer Chris Foss. The conversation between the two women is civil if not icy at first, but before long, Chris has Kate at gunpoint and is ready to kill her to win Robert back. Kate's future brother-in-law Kevin, also a police officer, is able to protect Kate from Chris' jealous rage, but Chris is wracked with grief and ultimately ends her own life shortly afterwards. ... (read more)

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St. Louis Survivors

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The Doctor’s Tale
by Claire Applewhite
Smoking Gun Publishing

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"You seem to think that you can save people from themselves. The truth is, no one can—not even you, Superman."

Stories of hospitals, the doctors and nurses who inhabit them, plus the patients who wind up in their examining, operating, and emergency rooms, have long been a staple source for literature, films, and television. There is a deep well of drama to draw from in the circumstances that send people to these institutions, and there is also fertile ground to be ploughed in the emotions that can be masked, but never completely hidden behind uniforms, lab coats, and scrubs. When it comes to her examination of St. Louis City Hospital, Applewhite prescribes not only drama and emotion in large dosages, but also humor and humanity to be taken as needed. ... (read more)

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Becoming a Woman Post-WWII

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Echo from Mount Royal
by Dave Riese
Merrimack Press

reviewed by Priscilla Estes

"I’ll never move. Where would I find enough boxes for all my memories."

Memory begins to reverberate when modern-day Rebecca Wiseman receives a computer for her 81st birthday and learns, through tutelage from her twelve-year-old grandson, how to email her childhood friend Jackie. Jackie’s response, “Did you read about the plane crash in the mountains up north about thirty years ago? The bastard is dead.” Time-tunnels Rebecca to her eighteen-year-old self in 1951 Montreal for a coming of age story scored with sweetness, humor, frank and funny sex, and bitter mystery. ... (read more)

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A Tough Woman in the Outback

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The Crushers
by Bronwyn Rodden
CreateSpace

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"Why was I so convinced that this wasn't a suicide? Why not just a whacky case from the suburbs wanting a dramatic end?"

One frigid Australian morning, Detective Senior Constable Ros Gordon finds herself in a cave. Ros has been sent there to investigate the mysterious death of a young girl. The case appears to be a straightforward suicide: The girl's clothes are neatly folded beside her, and there's no sign of foul play. But something strikes Ros as odd about the scenario. Aided by her partner Bill Fontani, Ros works to uncover the truth about the naked girl in the cave. With it, she finds a story with tendrils that reach deeper than she'd expected. ... (read more)

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Destined to Fight

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The Tiger of Dien Bien Phu
by Richard A.M. Dixon
Merriam Press

reviewed by John E. Roper

"I didn't feel French. However wondrous France may be, I didn't feel it was my France or that I belonged to it. I felt a pang of loneliness. Where did I belong?"

Claude was not born with the heart of a killer. As a mixed-race child growing up in French Indochina, he never quite fit in with the Tonkinese residents of his mother's ethnicity nor with the pure French colonialists of his father's background. But while the ostracization was painful it was not enough to send him down a truly violent path. Even when taken on a tiger hunt by his father, he discovered that, while not afraid of the dangerous animal in front of him, he still could not kill it. But the harsh experiences of life can change a person and drive even the innocent into darkness. ... (read more)

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A Study of Social Unrest

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The Bookroom Murders: Violence and Death in an American School
by Alan Berg
Lulu

reviewed by Jennifer Weiss

"So much for the repressive school, I am thinking, finishing a highball and wondering what would now happen with the writing class."

Students and staff are being mysteriously murdered within an inner city school, and writing teacher, Neil Masterman, has become the prime suspect despite numerous other potential suspects. Amid the tragedy of the murders, Masterman's students begin to explore a writing assignment with sexual content, which puts the future of the class at risk. No one knows who could be luring victims into the bookroom, and everyone is set on edge as cops roam the halls. There are no clues that could lead the cops to the actual killer, so they grasp at straws, causing the tension to rise higher. ... (read more)

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Presidential High Jinks

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The Snoodle Contract
by Gerry Burke
iUniverse

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"He was keen to recover his convertible and have the upholstery and trunk steam cleaned. The smell of dead bodies can reduce resale value."

The satire starts early as you quickly learn of the President of the United States recent performance on Dancing With The Stars. Then you’re whisked to Las Vegas where covert agents are holding a convention and everyone in attendance has the same surname—Smith. Thus begins a certifiably wild send-up of political thrillers. An insidious assassination attempt is being plotted, and a wisecracking shamus from Australia winds up neck-deep in efforts to thwart it. Sinister forces are at work to kill the U S President. Assassins from around the world are recruited and a triple-threat plan put in place. In Houston, suicidal tank truck drivers prepare an explosively warm welcome. ... (read more)

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A Season of Change

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Auto Flick: A Study of Whales and Cigarettes That Became a Novel
by John R. Bancroft
Ecphora Press

reviewed by Carolyn Davis

"I wish someone had told me about this Dick Mobius cult before I got started. H. Melville."

Auto Flick is a multi-tiered novel of substance that indulges in whimsy. It is the story of a father and son, "Speedy" and "Izzy." Set in 1968, as well as the 1990s and 2000s, the story is Izzy's account of his reporter father's life lessons, curiosity, and compassion. Speedy's lessons resurface in Izzy's later life to influence the younger man's relationship with his own teenage son. ... (read more)

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Peter Romero is on the Case

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The Animal Parts
by David E. Knop
BookBaby

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"They dragged the blubbering man off and the door slammed. Silence. Dark silence. Romero knew he wasn’t dead. Death couldn’t hurt this much."

When it comes to novels, it’s virtually impossible to think about the combination of crime, mystery, and Native Americans, and not think about Tony Hillerman. His Navajo Tribal Police stories gave readers a different way to view people who had frequently been marginalized and too often caricatured in books, films, and television. This author’s oeuvre is similar, yet distinctive in its own right. His third and latest installment of the life and times of Cochiti Pueblo Police Officer Peter Romero... (read more)

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A Compassionate Solution

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The Shark and the Volcano
by Sylvia M. Medina
Green Kids Club Adventures

reviewed by Carolyn Davis

"This book is dedicated to those who are helping to reduce the plight of sharks, due to shark finning and to their capture(both intentional and unintentional)."

A fantasy picture book with a narrative geared to readers aged 5-9, The Shark and the Volcano is one of a series of adventures in which the "Green Kids" obtain super powers that permit them to confront and resolve environmental issues. ... (read more)

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Exciting Coming of Age

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Hush Now, Don’t Explain
by Dennis Must
Coffeetown Press

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"I pulled him to me as I had Billy the night before. But here I wasn’t holding a man. Instead I was holding a past."

Sometimes what is unsaid speaks loudest. Now and then a writer has the confidence to hint rather than hammer. This author’s story of the loss of innocence and the search for one’s future in the secrets of the past uses revelation sparingly—which is to say well. Nor does he burden the reader with expositional excess. No sentence, paragraph, or page feels overwritten. While one is eager for the start of each new chapter, there’s no overt attempt to create cliffhangers. This is a novel where the writer’s measured pace makes it all the more enjoyable. ... (read more)

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The Bridge to Awareness

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Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage
by Jackie Griffiths
JG Publishing

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"Pushing open a small wooden gate, she passes, greatly intrigued, into the field of tents, her phone hanging open and forgotten in her hand."

Jae has a good life. She has a loving boyfriend, a wonderful daughter, and an accepting family. Still, she feels like something important is missing from her life. Out for a walk one day, Jae comes across an old bridge. Crossing it begins a series of otherworldly events in an entirely different realm of being. Traversing this ever-shifting landscape, Jae meets spiritual mentors, faces obstacles of the soul, and gains control over her own mind. All the while, she is on the hunt for the elusive ox, half man and half beast, who acts as her spirit guide. Spurned on by a cryptic note from her recently departed grandmother, Jae embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever. ... (read more)

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Discover Alaska

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Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Four
by Phyllis Downing Carlson and Laurel Downing Bill
Aunt Phil’s Trunk

reviewed by Mihir Shah

"This road is built for war, but this road will be used when peace and victory come back to us again."

Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume Four is an exceptional account of Alaskan history. From a mere glance at the title, audiences unfamiliar with the preceding Aunt Phil’s Trunk volumes may think they’ve stumbled upon another dense history book to read. This could not be further from the truth. A collective effort between the authors, volume four is a treasure trove of pivotal moments in Alaskan history, illuminated by monumental photographs, detailed captions, and thoroughly enlightening insight, including stories of the individual’s that helped Alaska survive and eventually prosper economically. ... (read more)

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Laughs Abound

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Tools of the Trade
by Philip B. Persinger
CreateSpace

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"She goes up to the flat. She runs the bath. She takes off her clothes and slips into a bottle of whisky."

High finance, haute cuisine, and huge knockers abound in this salty satire that seeks to hoist wretched excess on its own petard. The sex is decidedly kinky, the pace is jet-fueled, and the penman piloting the plot is determined to never substitute a straightforward sentence for a wisecrack, gag, or pun. ... (read more)

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A Techincal Journey

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Turned On!
by S.P. Perone
iUniverse

reviewed by Peter M. Fitzpatrick

"The clock was ticking. I had, at most, two more years to prove myself. The research would have to bear fruit."

This autobiography by an analytical chemistry PhD, who entered Purdue University as an assistant professor in 1962, focuses on his battle to learn the ropes in gaining tenure and then full professorship. On the route to this goal, he describes the climate of early and late sixties. Efforts at promoting science in America were in full swing since the launch of the Russian Sputnik, and American students took up the challenge with idealistic fervor. ... (read more)

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Alexi's Song

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Greylock
by Paula Cappa
Crispin Books

reviewed by Anita Lock

"But when you bury guilt it becomes a scorpion. The manifestation will sting and keep stinging you until you are a mess of shreds. And the scorpion wins."

Alexei Georg finds an anonymous piano sonata hidden in his deceased father's sea chest. Claiming it as his original work, Alexei names it October Sonata, and it wins him a prestigious musical award. Unfortunately an ominous Muse is connected to the mysterious composition. Alexei leaves for Russia to record beluga whale songs for a new symphony that he'll complete during his stay at Greylock Music Hall on Mount Greylock. Prior to his trip, Alexei leaves Carole Ann, his jealous and overbearing wife, for the beautiful Lia Marrs. While sailing the White Sea in search of whale pods, Alexei learns that Carole Ann has been murdered and he has been pegged as a prime suspect. ... (read more)

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Leaving Your Mark

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Lasting Contribution: How to Think, Plan, and Act to Accomplish Meaningful Work
by Tad Waddington
B2 Books

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

"So the question isn't just: how do you contribute? The question is: how do you make a contribution that lasts?"

This 122 page essay, including a Glossary, Koans, References, and an Index, offers much information in a densely-packed book. It consists of nine chapters: I: Getting Started, II: Dealing with Complexity, III: Your Resources, IV: The Design of Action, V: Embody Your Goal, and VI: Empirical Problems. The final chapters include: VII: Theoretical Problems, VIII: Why, and IX: Contribution, with the focus on Aristotle's four causes. The initial chapter examines making a lasting contribution regarding material, efficient, formal, and final causes. ... (read more)

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An Odd But Perfect Match

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Raven's Redemption: A Cybertech Thriller
by John D. Trudel
The Trudel Group

reviewed by John E. Roper

"The man scrambled frantically across the floor like a wounded crab, slipping on the tile, crawling, reaching for his gun."

Durham had been a disaster. Everyone on Raven's team had been seriously wounded, and now Josie, the woman he loves and a major American asset due to her paranormal abilities, is in a drug-induced stupor at a medical facility. Wracked with guilt over his inability to have adequately anticipated and prepared for the danger, Raven is recuperating at the remote private estate in California known by the resident staff as "the Ranch." However, when his boss, Dr. Goldfarb, wants him to extract Josie quickly and quietly from her hospital, he doesn't have to be asked twice. Although he doesn't know it at the time, the mission will be the crucial first step Raven will need to take to redeem himself in his own eyes. ... (read more)

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Great Historical Fiction

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Princess of Blood
by Brigitte Goldstein
Xlibris

reviewed by Anita Lock

"It was fate that brought us together and I shall never betray you, Sandrine!"

Sandrine Legrand is no ordinary peasant. Although unaware of her past (which she discovers later in the story), Sandrine makes herself as inconspicuous as possible when Philippe, Count de Treffort-Salignac, and his troops lodge at her foster father's inn. Ironically, the two are drawn to each other. Philippe is surprised that Sandrine is both literate and quite knowledgeable on political affairs. Meeting secretly, the two confess their love for one to another. Sandrine is caught in the middle of ruthless wars between the Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots), especially when she is wrongfully accused of witchcraft. ... (read more)

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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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The Snoodle Contract
by Gerry Burke
iUniverse

It takes only a couple of sentences before you know you’re in the land of satire. That realization comes with reference to the President of the United States recent performance on Dancing With The Stars. Then you’re catapulted to Las Vegas where covert agents are holding a convention and everyone in attendance has the same surname—Smith. To assure all that this is a politically correct soiree, the American hosts have invited participants from al Qaeda, Islamic State, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Boko Haram. ... (read more)

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Twin River IV: When The Cold Wind Blows
by Michael Fields

From the first paragraph, readers are treated to the setting of Death Valley, simultaneously painting the harsh, dangerous environment with its most striking and breathtaking features. Soon thereafter, Cain Towers and his uncle Abel are introduced, celebrating Cain's 18th birthday with some wine. This moment of seeming normalcy is immediately shattered as Abel retells the story of he and Cain's father's lives growing up in an orphanage, engaging in sinister, ritualistic behavior after being adopted out... (read more)

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