Missing Persons: A Memoir comes from one who becomes the last in her family after she loses her aunt and then her mother, facing the rigors of caring for a dying person at home and the ongoing feelings of loss that comes from their recent deaths and the prior demise of her younger brother and her father.
Gayle Greene was forced to confront basic questions of her values and journey in life as she lived through her mother and aunt's final days and a year's aftermath of being without them and without family ties.
The result is a hard-hitting account of one woman's adjustments and survival tactics that takes into account the broader issues of death, dying, and family heritage. Missing Persons is recommended for anyone who enjoys memoirs about family connections, loss, and disconnections.
The Reading Parrot Named Darwin reaches kids ages 2-12 with a story that enjoys lovely colorful drawings by Marvin Alonso as it tells of would-be writer Lana, who suffers from writer's block and waits for words that will not spill onto paper.
Interrupted in her frustrating endeavor by the delivery man, Lana receives a mysterious box that contains an African gray parrot, an odd gift from her aunt.
What transpires when Darwin wears his special glasses makes for an engaging tale as Darwin proves his prowess in more than just flying and Lana discovers her writer's block has been cured by inspiration from an unexpected source.
Girls and women who aspire to literary success will find much to like about Lana's efforts and the surprising interruption that turns her life around, providing new changes that spark her creative impulse.
The story moves in an unforeseen direction in a stimulating tale that is both fun for leisure readers and inspirational for would-be writers searching for their muses.
August Murder creates a fast-paced thriller about terrorism, murder, politics, and one man who doesn't believe the report of events surrounding his son's death in Puerto Rico, and who assembles a posse of lawyers and investigators to uncover the truth.
The story is actually based on real life - there was such an event in Puerto Rico. Two young men were murdered by police agents on one of the country’s mountains, and said agents were later detained at the insistence of the Puerto Rico Legislature, investigated, tried, and found guilty of police wrongdoing (despite other probes that exonerated them, conducted by the FBI and police agencies).
Although August Murder is loosely based on these events, it adds drama, thriller elements, and suspense to wind Puerto Rico's real-world culture and history into the true story.
The underlying focus on political investigations and a web of intrigue and conspiracy, combined with a heavy dose of Puerto Rican politics and cultural insights, lends to a creation which serves to both entertain and enlighten.
It takes a talented hand to wind nonfiction facts into a fictional mystery, grapple with a myriad of characters which prove compelling and recognizable in their own rights through the story line, and maintain a flow of action and drama that easily holds reader attention.
August Murder succeeds in all these aspects, and is a compelling saga of conflicting evidence and motivations for murder, crafting an especially astute eye to capturing Puerto Rican daily lives and experiences: "Mr. Miller, policemen in Puerto Rico don’t make a lot of money. The average salary for a police officer is around $30,000, about the same as the average salary for a teacher. For that kind of money, they risk their lives in dangerous places. They have to deal with young delinquents in the projects who may make $30,000 in one week, and who are much better armed than any policeman. It’s amazing that more of them are not taking money to look the other way or do worse."
Words Never Spoken is a powerful account of ambition and hope, despair, and rejuvenation and introduces its subject with a succinct observation of the process that receives deeper inspection in chapters to follow: "I wanted what every girl wants: to fall in love and live happily ever after. But after one failed marriage and with forty quickly approaching, I had given up."
While many stories chronicle this same process, what sets Words Never Spoken apart from most others is its attention to rendering these experiences in verse, accompanied by black and white line drawings that, together, capture the process of wading through the lies and obstacles to togetherness and a happy life.
Readers should anticipate a gritty, determined, street-wise voice to these poems which reflect candid observation and move from inner soul-searching to outward life depictions with a deft hand that pulls no punches in the process: "Why can’t you be who you say you are?/Live close to me and not so far./Not have 10 kids and baby drama./Have a job and not live wit yo mama."
Sometimes the most powerful experiences come not just from the heart, but from the power of the pen and a writer's ability to capture the moments that hold life-changing impact. As readers wind through the verses in Words Never Spoken, they receive emotional tugs that come from soul-searching moments as potent as a brush with suicide and the one thing that prevents final disaster from taking shape.
It should be cautioned, if it isn't already apparent by now, that this is no light read; no cursory brush with a life in flux; but an often-troubling, wrenching discourse into the depths of despair and how the character rebuilds her life from that depth, including her relationship with her child and God.
Exactly how one moves from a failed marriage, a miscarriage, and crushing depression to overcoming all with a little help from God makes for an engrossing, vivid shout from the pages of Words Never Spoken, highly recommended for readers who want psychological, spiritual, and social reflections wound into the struggle of a life not only saved, but reborn.
What would World War II have looked like if an alien invasion had brought the Axis and Allies together? The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb reviews just such a world in a fantasy that opens the first book in a projected series.
Lest readers expect a staid alternate history piece, it should be mentioned that The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb is more like an Indiana Jones action piece on steroids. Picture military encounters with a World War II backdrop, but with plasma-breathing fire dragons on the battlefield. Add a dash of difference with Chinese infantrymen joining forces and fighting alongside Japanese and American forces. Now temper this mix with extraordinary adventures: captured archaeologist Chuan-Jay (CJ) Hoo's task of excavating the tomb of the First King of China for a mythical device, the Ninth Cauldron, that can manipulate the time of the universe when the Dragon Stone is inserted; and a new mission that takes place a year later.
In this effort, CJ teams up with American adventurer Dr. Harry Jones to convince the alien guardians to fight with first China, then the Allies in a winding story line that pairs familiar history with unfamiliar fantasy touches revolving around hidden forces, buried history, and dark changes.
It takes a deft hand to present World War II history in a logical manner while adding all kinds of alternative history elements, fantasy influences, and military confrontations between individuals who find themselves caught between too many opposing forces and special missions. Ricardo Alexanders succeeds in portraying a satisfyingly complex dance between a diverse range of influences. What new force released on Earth could prove so deadly that the efforts of all human fighters are thwarted? Will CJ prove mankind's last hope, or humanity's greatest enemy?
From the riveting, last desperate attempt of the Enola Gay to change history in a different manner to descriptions of the plasma blades of the Psyccagon, the action is relentless, the story line complex but logical, and the nonstop events make The Last Resistance hard to put down.
It's unusual to recommend a military-style fantasy for readers of alternative history and even non-fantasy action thrillers; but The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb promises many unpredictable twists and turns, creates strong characters, adds cultural encounters, and flavors all with high tension that makes for a top recommendation holding the ability to cross genres from fantasy to thriller audiences. Anyone who relishes the staccato action of an Indiana Jones piece will find its equal in The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb.
Unlimited, clean energy is an elusive goal even in the future, where a company on Mars charged with mining the Mother Lode of minerals finds itself under investigation by an audit team which runs into more than mining operation discrepancies.
Micromium promises to be a solution to the world's clean energy dilemma and an ever-deepening environmental crisis. One kilo of refined Micromium can power a major metropolitan city for an entire year without any environmentally harmful side effects. There's much promise - but the team's latest probe may turn out to be their last as truths emerge that threaten not just projects and ideals, but lives.
Micromium may sound like classic sci-fi, but its roots lie just as heavily in a mystery as in its backdrop of Mars. Readers who turn to it expecting the mundane trappings of science fiction will uncover much more as they become involved in a blend of murder mystery, ethical conundrums, and corporate corruption and revelations that heavily impact mining operations and lives. The story is thoroughly engrossing.
-Diane Donovan—Midwest Book Review
At first glance, Rare and Exotic Orchids: Their Nature and Cultural Significance seems yet another science book discussing the botany and natural history of orchids; but Joel L. Schiff's added focus on their cultural importance and why international communities around the world take special note of orchids adds an extra dimension to the subject.
Orchid aficionados will find Rare and Exotic Orchids's different approach eschews the more common attempt to classify and cover thousands of species in favor of a more concentrated profile of selected exotics which represent some of the rarest plants on Earth.
An opening history of orchids from ancient to modern times moves into botanical discussions of orchids, those who grew, studied, and wrote about them, and their place in a range of international societies.
From discoveries of new exotic orchids and how individual plants captured different hearts and minds to early explorers who ventured into unknown territory in search of new species, Joel L. Schiff brings to life not just the science surrounding orchids, but the human process of recognizing, cataloging, and appreciating them.
While science readers will appreciate the wealth of visual illustrations and technical discussions that reveal controversies as well as insights into orchid biology, technical details are juxtaposed with lively debates, discussions, history, and facts that even casual orchid fans or newcomers to the topic will find surprisingly easy to understand.
Schiff's high-quality images of exotic orchids (many of which are unique to his orchid book) nicely supplement facts that include the latest DNA research on orchids and their deceptive evolutionary behaviors, nicely complimenting the discussions of historical and scientific conundrums.
It's this approach, combined with lovely close-up color photos throughout, which makes Rare and Exotic Orchids a recommendation not just for professionals or botany libraries, but for general-interest readers who will enjoy a highly accessible study that invites an in-depth interest in orchids and their importance to human affairs.
Uncovering alien plots was the last thing that college philosophy teacher Michael Whyse had in mind, but a journey to Cairo with the intention of going off the beaten tourist path leads him straight into trouble when old scraps of papyrus pose an incomplete puzzle and a visionary encounter.
When offered these ancient artifacts, Michael is initially cautious - after all, many a tourist has been jailed for trafficking ancient antiquities out of the country, and he refuses to be one of them. When he learns he is the 'rightful owner' of these scrolls, what seems like circumstance and chance becomes something larger as his small-time position in the scheme of things suddenly becomes much bigger than he'd ever imagined.
The God Scrolls is billed as sci-fi, but it's also a thriller in disguise. There's an ancient secret to unravel, encounters with Egyptian priestesses who have led past lives, and a secret government behind the government (The Order) which is in collusion with the aliens, working behind the scenes.
As alien encounters become more frequent and priests fall under their spell, it's up to Michael to thwart alien and human ambitions alike to save the day.
It should be cautioned that The God Scrolls is no light read. Over seven hundred pages delve into magic, politics, ancient truths, and present-day alien conspiracies in a complex series of encounters designed to keep readers guessing.
Readers who enjoy the intersection of visionary fiction and science fiction and who appreciate multifaceted stories that move quickly, with thriller elements added into the mix, will find The God Scrolls satisfyingly unexpected and fast-paced. It's highly recommended for readers who enjoy stories of alien intervention that offer higher-level thinking than most.
Fans of the epic fantasy genre who appreciate complex, well-detailed and absorbing quest sagas will find Mannethorn’s Key the perfect choice for a long winter's night.
The story opens with an intelligent drakehawk bird who is being called back home via magic. It turns out that Ka is the decoy for bringing Grailborn to the wizard's door, and the reward for her loyalty is betrayal.
Algarth Willowbrow's kingdom is in ruins: Grailborn has overcome his wards, his magic tricks and drakehawk have failed, and all that's left is a secret that involves a costly compromise and a final encounter that will ultimately determine the fate of Drageverden.
In another world, former broker Bartholomew Waxman has also gambled everything and lost; but he's about to embark on a journey between worlds he never knew existed, on a quest that could change them both.
Can a wizard stripped of his powers and an unsuspecting human who has already lost everything amass a power between them that can save both realms?
One pleasure of Mannethorn’s Key lies in its ability to depict two very different worlds and purposes and bring them together in unexpected ways.
As Bart and Algarth consider their choices, breaches of tradition, and most of all, their failures, other characters enter the story that also have lost much and made decisions that conflicted with their interests.
Rage and revenge, a key hidden by Mannethorn that involves Bart in impossible circumstances, and mythical relics that explain much but are never found all make for a gripping story.
It should be cautioned that violence, swearing, and clashes on more than one level permeate the story line. These are always in keeping with the tale at hand, but add an extra dimension of spice and angst to the story that may stymie fantasy fans looking for clean action reading.
It should also be mentioned that Mannethorn’s Key is the opener to a series and only explores Bart's first day of experiences in Drageverden. More books are in order, and will likely flush out the story of guardians, spells, and dilemmas of a man who knows he is no savior, but seems to have been thrust into this unlikely role, with Mannethorn Lexipath holding the key to everything.
Readers of epic fantasy looking for a powerful winter read will relish the detail and world Simon Lindley has crafted here, which sets the stage for further books in the Key of Life trilogy.
There's little doubt about its contents, with a book named The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! This represents plain and simple thinking, and is a "nasty little book" that pinpoints federal government processes as the cause of forces destroying American society and democratic ideals.
Taxpayers in revolt receive a presentation that looks like an illustrated comic book coverage in many places, featuring large-size print and an approach that would seem to indicate its appropriateness for a younger audience; but which actually will prove accessible to busy adults who want more of a quick synthesis than the usual weighty political read presents.
Appearances aside, it should be noted that The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! is a book most decidedly directed to adult American taxpayers, and is crafted in such a manner that even those with low reading skills or who are unfamiliar with statistics, math, or politics will find it enlightening.
There's no love of either Democrat or Republican leaders in this damning report: both receive 'F' marks, along with the government entities that have supported bureaucratic snafus and leaders that promote tax codes with sweeping debt attached to them. James E. Joyce maintains (and supports with facts) that were it not for the federal government's shenanigans, the average American would have $40K more in their pockets annually for retirement income.
There are many eye-opening accusations (supported by statistics and facts) that will give liberals and conservatives alike pause for thought - including that the current social security system is akin to a "federal Ponzi scheme" and should be replaced by a National Investment Retirement Fund. Joyce maintains that social security has been a dishonest scheme since its instigation in 1935, and advocates a better replacement vehicle on the state level. He points out that in 1935, "the average American died before reaching age 65." Now that longevity has increased, proponents of the system are trying to assure that the benefit age is adjusted so that those who pay into the system actually don't reap its full benefits.
It should be noted that professional editing would have made the book a smoother read. But as a counterpoint, this is intended as a comic book and, as such, is a more inviting way of comprehending many serious facts without the grammatical density of comparatively complex discussions of the subject.
The Federal Government is Run by Idiots! is no light discourse, but a solid review that is purposely presented in a format that will lend to accessibility and inspection by even the busiest reader. After a section of admonitions and damning evidence, the meat of the book lies in a second section that details the 'Restoration of the American Dream'.
This may be a nasty little book; but truthful examination of a complex system is never a cozy read. Want to change things so that Americans can retire at 52 and lead a better life? The keys included here offer food for thought on making this process a reality.
Eye-opening, hard-hitting, and an excellent, compelling read; this book will prove hard to put down, cultivating an intense roller coaster of emotions designed to involve readers not just in social or military issues; but in the perspectives of individual lives.
Four years before the Stonewall riots, one Bob LeBlanc informed Marine Corps investigators "you have no right to ask" when they asked if he was homosexual. He did so again a year before Stonewall. In 1975, for the first time in American history, a federal judge issued a restraining order against the U.S. Military to halt the court martial of Bob for allegedly being gay. Bob's final legal fights with the Marines in 1975 and 1976 would fuel the fledgling gay rights movement throughout the U.S., which has evolved into today's LGBTQ Civil Rights movement - and yet until the publication of Silent Drums, these facts themselves were buried.
It can be said that Bob LeBlanc is the Rosa Parks of today's LGBTQ Civil Rights movement.
Silent Drums: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome! is thus a military saga like few others, tackling overcoming adversity at the most unexpected of places: among the Marine Corps ranks. It centers on LBGT rights, gay marriage, and the experiences of one military man who struggled not on the battlefield against enemies, but against his own peers and an establishment which discriminated against gays long before "don't ask/don't tell" policies were enacted.
The biography of Robert Lyle LeBlanc is provided in the form of descriptions that read with the vividness of fiction and the immediacy of a social issues discussion, reaching beyond the usual nonfiction approach to immerse readers in a piece of military history that stems from one man's actions and an organization's changes. It remains true to its research roots, however. Pam Daniels spent three and a half years researching and confirming where Bob LeBlanc was during his two combat tours in Vietnam, before spending four and a half years writing, editing and publishing Silent Drums.
The book incorporates scans from actual Marine Corp documents, and even adds some of the reports he dictated to HQ during the fierce battles he was part of.
This is not to say that military action isn't a part of the story. Bob faced battles, struggles, life-changing brushes with death, and, forty years later, a witch-hunt affecting his service as a military policeman that seemed to belay everything he battled for and believed in, in his life.
Bob put his life on the line in Vietnam, serving his country. Now, at home, he puts his heart on the line and faces an enemy even more deadly than the Viet Cong.
Silent Drums exposes an aspect of military involvement that too commonly is hidden from the eye. Bob's story moves deftly between past and present experience as he faces various challenges in his life both within and outside the military, and as he fights the ban on gays in the military before the policy of "don't ask/don't tell" became established.
Readers who find his story compelling should be aware that the timeline jumps back and forth between different periods in Bob's life, and that his account reads with the third-person drama of fiction as it explores his world, his choices, and their lasting impacts. A thought or emotion can transport him back in time even as he's in his partner's kitchen cooking dinner, for example. Such jumps are nicely done and are not confusing; but they may stymie readers seeking a methodical, linear story line that stays true to its timeline and progression of events.
However, in choosing this special form of delivery, Pam Daniels assures that the connections between past experience and the choices and lives they've affected and created are clearly delivered. Readers also receive visuals which take the form of Marine command incidence reports, journal entries, and logs that support the battles and events that immerse Bob and his comrades in various struggles.
Silent Drums is not a singular story in any respect. It's not straight biography, military history, fiction or social probe; but incorporates all these elements in a powerful, hard-hitting and solid work of journalism designed to give readers much food for thought and insights on a relatively little-known aspect of military history and processes.
The result blends Marine Corp culture with a powerful story of dangers that come from unexpected places. As Bob adapts to and changes from his experiences and faces after-battle health issues that continue to threaten his life, a personal struggle for full equality in the military assumes a life of its own in a story which embraces and reflects the entire timeline of the LGBT civil rights movement.
This story of how a Vietnam Marine fought anti-gay attitudes in the military should be on the reading lists of anyone concerned about gay rights history in general and military culture in particular. It's eye-opening, hard-hitting, and compelling reading that will prove hard to put down, cultivating an intense roller coaster of emotions designed to involve readers not just in social or military issues; but in the perspectives of individual lives.
Very highly recommended, Silent Drums is a portrait of courage operating on more than one level, and deserves a medal for its in-depth research achievements.
When two twelve-year-old children, Lucy and Paddy Hendricks, inadvertently run afoul of a well-laid plot in The Pirate of Janaconda Island, adventure begins and danger looms - but Lucy and Paddy aren't anticipating an action-filled summer. They feel they are being banished to a boring island with little to do on a "crummy rock heap in the middle of nowhere."
This changes when the kids experience a near-accident as soon as they arrive, enter a creepy old mansion that is to be their new home, and have the option of using a boat. As their anticipation of boredom turns to a series of adventures, threats, and intrigue, Lucy and Paddy go caving, become involved in a real-world treasure hunt, and face secrets that tie their house to a present-day mystery.
Advanced elementary to middle school readers will appreciate the intrigue and mystery which permeate this realistic story of two kids who find more trouble than they'd bargained for when they embark on a treasure hunt that places them at odds with other searchers.
Dialogue is well done, adult interventions and actions juxtapose nicely with the siblings' efforts, and young readers will become immersed in a series of puzzling clues that are riveting and keep readers guessing until the end.
Unlike some treasure-oriented mysteries for kids, Warren Firschein rounds out his the story with adult purposes and perspectives and a realistic approach where the kids don't always act independently, but have steady interactions with parents and outsiders alike.
The result is an engrossing mystery highly recommended for kids who live for tales of treasure and intrigue.
Rock Hudson Erotic Fire is based on some fifty years of information from Rock Hudson's friends, many lovers, and associates, proffering an in-depth biography which includes much information not contained in prior books about Hudson's life. This fact is especially surprising since over thirty years has passed since his death, and because so much has already been written about him that one might wonder at the need for yet another survey of his life.
Rock Hudson fans will find much to enjoy in this exposé about the iconic actor which gives information about his bisexuality and many lovers along with reconsiderations of his acting career, vivid life, and death.
The part that really stands out is the in-depth surveys of his relationships with men and women alike, revealing many aspects of a part of Hudson's world that other books have either glossed over or only lightly touched upon.
The result is an exposé that offers the depth and detail any avid Hudson fan should receive. It's especially recommended for prior enthusiasts and collections strong in Hollywood biographies.
Permeable Divide provides Ellen Rachlin's fourth volume of poetry and blends it with a philosophical observational style that is elegant in expression and rich in description and psychological insight. Take, for one example, the unexpected depth of 'Families': "Those slack wire acts that balance/by focusing near, love the sloped wire./First, there are the shakes of contorting bodies/then the hold while they juggle troubled kin/in each outstretched hand."
Readers are invited to reflect on various incarnations of what Rachlin describes as the "permeable divide", which consists of the gap between the living and a loved one lost to death, the rift between art and business, or the breaks that limit freedom and result in revolutions that may based be as much experiences of the past as the present.
Each poem is so different that this collection requires slow, careful, contemplative thought before realization sets in that each poem is actually interconnected, in a much broader sense. 'Divide', for example, also explores change, loss, and being lost in a different sense than 'Families' offered - yet, in a familiar way: "There is nothing to change/if you fit in/but that's the catch./To go from shore to mountaintop/you must adjust./The mind won't let go."
Permeable Divide captures confrontations with self, evolving efforts to change and grow, and how gaps are bridged or widened between life, death, and daily affairs in a succinct yet absorbing collection of images and ideas that requires slow, thoughtful reading from free verse fans and rewards these efforts with rich insights that linger in the mind long after the last poem is read.
Frankie plans on a special summer after he graduates high school, and is on track to enter college in the fall of 1939, but though he dreamed of adventure, he didn't anticipate adversity.
When his family falls apart, he finds himself on an ocean liner bound for Europe, involved in with man who may hold the key to a war looming on the horizon which will change not only Frankie's world, but everything.
Under the Maginot is a powerful saga that's hard to put down - and is just as hard to easily categorize. It could be called a 'gay novel' because the main characters develop a relationship that both changes and defines their lives, but it doesn't follow the usual sexually-charged descriptions of so many stories of gay relationships.
It opens with a torture scene made especially vivid through a first-person narration that pinpoints exactly how the protagonist came to be in this situation.
As Frankie's world changes, readers follow him through the madness that follows, from a life that begins innocuously to one involving an identity revelation, romance, a powerful landing in Europe at exactly the wrong moment in its pivotal history, and a German motorcycle odyssey through Maginot lines, war, a new boyfriend's secret political and military involvements, and ultimately, a test of faith, love, and self.
As he comes to understand Ray's real goal and efforts, Frankie faces moments that promise to change his world as his journey provides readers with a gripping saga of horrible suffering, life's promises and potentials, and the realities of gay relationships in the 1940s.
The result probes relationships, gay survival practices, and war's effects on everything as it overlays Frankie's life and ultimately determines his future.
Under the Maginot is a spellbinding read, highly recommended for followers of gay fiction who want more depth and detail than the sexual encounters and ribald, racy descriptions offered in typical genre reads.
The Jimarian Bible explains the inner consciousness of both the author and Jimar, making a case for 'bigger picture thinking' as it points out that individuals may experience 100 years on the planet, so have numerous opportunities to make a difference in its evolution.
With that in mind, The Jimarian Bible moves on to explore not only underlying purposes in human life on Earth, but the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, and other major world religions and their guidance on the subject.
As chapters unfold, a wide-ranging discussion of belief systems turns into pointed considerations of self and moves into wider concerns, from an over-populated world and the risks and rewards of parenting to human psychology, expanding the underlying probe (why humans are on Earth) to consider how people interact with the universe.
Be forewarned: this is no light treatment. There are 10 books wrapped into this Bible, and each one addresses a different set of concerns. Each holds its own table of contents, making it easy to locate topics; and each moves from individual concerns to family, community, and social issues after building a spiritual foundation for the journey.
Its surveys ranges from how societies construct laws and administer justice to artistic portraits of experiences as influencers on the progress of humanity.
From 'holy constants' to the gods of man and choice, readers receive several things from The Jimarian Bible: a sweeping blend of spiritual application and social inspection, admonitions presented in large print and bold type that reinforce the more powerful points throughout, and an attention to details that link the microcosm of individual experience and purpose to the macrocosm of social and spiritual impact.
The ideal reader thus should be those already on a spiritual path that embraces social reflection and change - and one who is not stymied by complexity.
Some grammatical improvements would make for a smoother, error-free read.
Enlightenment is not a process of speed-reading or quick absorption - after all, other religious documents receive lifetimes of inspection and consideration. The Jimarian Bible deserves no less, and will benefit from the open minds and hearts of readers intent upon changing not just their lives and perspectives, but their purpose on Earth.