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A Humorous Story of Great Ambitions

To Squeeze a Prairie Dog - Scott Semegran
  1. D. Wiswall is the newest clerk in a pool of state government workers. He learns of competition among peers for a $10,000 prize for developing a cost-saving program to improve the government's budget and their own lives. Their developing team is on track to win, but when J.D.'s bumbling alcoholic supervisor accidentally stumbles on a multimillion-dollar cost-savings suggestion, problems begin.

 

Governor Bennett is a politician who will stop at nothing to stoke his ego; even if it means throwing the personal lives and quirks of his clerks into the public eye. When a snoopy reporter threatens the clerks' ability to claim a prize that will change their lives, sparks erupt in this quirky, fun spoof about ambition, success, dirty little secrets, and social and political oddballs.

 

The book's title, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog, already indicates that the tale will be extraordinary, and readers will quickly realize that the multifaceted account isn't just a romp through political ambition and smarmy individuals. It's about a group of oddballs with ambitions to move beyond their set financial, social, and career courses to achieve greater goals, and it pairs a healthy dose of wry humor and insights with a realistic story of interactions between very different colleagues who are thrown together to evolve to something greater than their clerical roles.

 

Satire and comedic observation are juxtaposed with acts of connection in a story that excels in portraying not just great ambitions, but small acts of kindness: "I wish there was something more I could do to bring joy to all of us besides cookin’,” she said. Seeing smiles on her coworkers’ faces did bring her immense joy."

 

From creative brainstorming over the grand prize to the things everyone feels compelled to do to get ahead, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog isn't just about sacrifice and ambition, but about the costs of success and the challenges of remaining creatively quirky in a world replete with economic, social and political challenges and goal-seekers.

 

Fun, ironic acronyms and jokes illustrate real efforts to bond, support one another, and survive against secrets and revelations about how the world really operates. To Squeeze a Prairie Dog paints a rollicking story that careens through the office structure to delve into the motivations, lives, and connections between ordinary individuals.

 

Readers seeking an uplifting, fun story of fortune, friendship, and fame will find To Squeeze a Prairie Dog juxtaposes a range of viewpoints and ironic situations designed to leave readers both entertained and thoughtful. This tale comes full-circle to provide a satisfying spoof on political ambitions while commenting on personal achievement and ideals of success.

A High-Octane YA Paranormal Thriller!

Dickensen Academy - Christine Grabowski

Dickensen Academy is a young adult paranormal story that holds the power to reach out and grab not only protagonist Autumn Mattison, but her readers, as it opens with her first impression of one of the big dreams of her life, and a looming puzzle. Autumn's first day at the exclusive Dickensen Academy introduces a bizarre secret that none of the new students sees just yet.

 

Besides her impression of the physical academy's setting, Autumn experiences a secondary certainty: somehow, she's been on this campus before. But, that's impossible. Or, is it?

 

As she tries out for cross-country and seeks to expand her horizons, 15-year-old Autumn seems on the brink of achieving much, but she keeps feeling something is wrong; especially when one of her courses turns from a predictable study to incorporating Dream Management into its curriculum, leading students on a discussion that introduces Autumn to some uncomfortable realizations.

As the 'why' behind the 'how' becomes more and more apparent, Autumn and her classmates face some of the biggest decisions of their lives. From her struggles with her parents over her grades and objectives at Dickensen to persistent nightmares and dreams that spill into daily reality, the events, people, and secrets at Dickensen are about to take over.

Amidst all this, Autumn is finding herself and discovering the true strengths of attending Dickensen.

 

Young adults who enjoy boarding school stories, paranormal encounters, and stories of growth of a teen who receives lessons on romance, mistakes, and special abilities will find much to like about Dickensen Academy, an institution which specializes in making dreams come true in more than one way.

 

Autumn's first-person character is nicely done and inviting, and the world of Dickensen with all of its conundrums and confusion comes to life through her eyes, making for a story that is hard to put down.

A Warm Puppy Picture Book Story About Inclusion And Acceptance

Puppy Pickup Day - April Henry

Eight engaging labradoodle puppies wake up to greet the day in April M. Cox's engaging picture book story of a special day when all the puppies expect to get a new home. 

 

They are fed, groomed, and play, but one little pup, smaller than his siblings, is rejected. As the rollicking rhyme follows the fun and games, young readers can't help but be concerned about one little outcast who falls off the puppy slide, is too small to play tag, and gets lost too easily. 

 

As the countdown begins, teaching numbers to young animal lovers, the last little puppy begins to wonder if getting a new home is something else he's going to miss out on. He's become lost (on Puppy Pickup Day, no less), but his friendly nature leads to help from unexpected places, and after his siblings are picked by new families, he discovers something important about courage and finding his place in the world even though he's a runt who can't do what his siblings enjoy. 

 

A variety of messages are wound into this fun-loving story of a little puppy's adventure: counting, colorful fun, lessons on friendship and helping, and embracing new experiences. Illustrator Len Smith's oversized, colorful panels are a huge draw to an equally-strong, uplifting story line that will delight young picture book readers and their read-aloud parents. He's a former Disney & Hanna-Barbara illustrator, and so his background is perfect for translating the story into large-sized, exceptionally colorful characters designed to provide eye-catching excitement and action to enhance the story's visual appeal. Each panel is packed with not just vivid colors and playful action, but emotion as the little puppy moves through his choices and considers his options. Not only the puppy's emotions are involved: readers will find their heartstrings similarly pulled as the story visually 'pops' with excitement. 

Bollywood Invasion - Ricardo Alexanders

The opening pages of Bollywood Invasion present what first appears to be an ordinary story of John Palmieri, a Brooklyn boy who is leading an average life until he's hit by a bus and awakens in another body as Raj Scindia, a prince living in India in 1958. He's suddenly wealthy, privileged, and living quite a different life from modern-day Brooklyn. Only his intense love for The Beatles has survived his transformation as he adapts to an entirely new culture and timeline; and it's that love which will lead to further changes because it's one he can't leave behind, in his old life. 

 

Driven by the possibilities of love and making a positive impact on his world, he finds the lyrics of the Beatles continue to direct his life, even though in this incarnation, they never existed. And when his choices bring everything he loves crashing into disaster ten years later, these songs and the values they instill in his new identity may be the only thing to link the former John's persona with Raj's struggle to survive. 

 

It would be all too easy to say that Bollywood Invasion is a timeslip novel that centers around a boy's struggle to regain his position and former world; but in actuality it's a saga of a struggle for identity that assumes a special level of complexity when two personas clash and their owner becomes lost between them. 

 

Is he living a lie, or dreaming? Which world is real; and which is his choice? As Raj becomes the incarnation of John Lennon in another place and time, bringing the messages of his future self into the past where they are received and interpreted with much enthusiasm and gusto, he also faces many conundrums, such as two women who love him and the dilemma of one of them being promised to another.

His reincarnation of the music of the 'Beetos' in this timestream leads to many changes as Ricardo Alexanders provides a satisfying focus on love, fame, complicated situations, and the values of Indian girls and the men who pursue them. 

 

The result is a complex and vivid story that leads Raj/John around the world and across time, probing the unexpected consequences of coming full circle with a story that challenges not only the protagonist's true identity, but the circumstances surrounding John Lennon's life, death, and own incongruities (“You wrote songs imagining no possessions but have millions of dollars and properties everywhere.”). 

 

Readers looking for timeslip sagas that go beyond the usual focus on finding a way back to finding the path to one's identity will relish the very different perspectives that make Bollywood Invasion an engrossing saga that excels in unexpected turns of plot. 

Dark Humor and Comic Con Action!

Battle at the Comic Expo - Richard Andreoli

Battle at the Comic Expo's audience is difficult to easily peg: take dark satirical humor, blend in action/thriller sci-fi elements, and add the specter of a comic convention threatened by forces of evil that move from comic pages into reality and from a zany romp into a world replete with dangerously obsessed fangirls and explosive, emotionally complex relationships. But somehow author Richard Andreoli makes all of this work in his fascinating, dramatic and chaotic novel.

 

In the story, Ron Lionel has created a blockbuster comic series - The Enduring - that is a monster hit.  He is hugely popular (and arrogant) but far less successful is his approach to life, which involves manipulating others to get what he wants. Nonetheless, Ron is realizing his dreams. Joe, in contrast, has long ago given up on his artistic ambitions and just lives to get by. His role as Security Chief at the comic book expo gets him close enough to his goal of supporting justice and fighting for the right side.

 

When these worlds collide, they do so with a bang that's heralded by an obsessed fan searching for answers Ron can't quite provide.

 

Readers familiar with comic convention culture and proceedings will quickly recognize all the trappings of a real convention in Andreoli's dark, satirical production. He is clearly familiar with this realm and its quirky, passionate participants (he worked as a marketing writer at Comic-Con for years), and this knowledge imbibes Battle at the Comic Expo's events with a real-world grittiness and humor.

 

References to this world (Dark Horse Comics, new ventures and industry partnerships) juxtapose with the passions of notoriously believable quirky fans to make for a vivid read that will be especially spot-on to anyone who has attended one of these conventions.

 

Another notable feature of Battle at the Comic Expo lies in its ability to take this bizarre-but-predictable setting and turn it on edge with larger-than-life events that are both mind-blowing and satisfying in their details. A fan's warped vision of what should be in the comics world may be the very force that destroys it, with only an egotist and a stalwart security guard standing between devastation and despair and the ultimate survival of the largest comic expo in America.

 

Can fangirl Velma discern between right and wrong? Can Joe prevent murder? And can he and Ron tap into Velma's obsession with Ron's fantasy world to draw her into different choices than the disaster she is careening towards.

 

Ron and Joe aren't friends; but they're about to share some of the same interests in a conjoined quest for survival not only of themselves, but the comic world that supports them both.

 

Take a highly successful egotist's irresistible fantasy creation, add a justice-believing outsider's quest to prevent disaster on his watch, and mix in underlying questions about good and evil, reality and fantasy, and good intentions gone awry for a powerful, multifaceted story that toes the line between fantasy, detective piece and comic world exposé. 

 

Replete with tension, action, and anxiety, Battle at the Comic Expo's injection of dark humor permeates a gripping story that excels in the unexpected while remaining firmly based in comic culture. Readers will relish its ability to teleport at warp speed between various genres while retaining a sense of originality and drama that makes the story vivid, unpredictable, and nearly impossible to put down.

 

A Powerful Women's Literary Read

Electric IMPULSE: Love, Life & Sex - Angel Hilson

Electric IMPULSE: Love, Life & Sex is Book One introducing an adult romance series and Aria Davenport, who believes her life is on a set trajectory to a predictable course of college, marriage to her beau, and a happily-ever-after conclusion. Unfortunately, life has a way of thwarting even the best-laid plans, as Aria discovers when her fiancée dumps her the day before her college graduation just as she's on the cusp of realizing all her dreams.

 

Sent into a tailspin over the sudden derailing of her careful objectives, Aria is hurt, confused, and ripe for exploitation. As the savvy, clever, secretive businessman Phoenix catches the eye of this fiery beauty and decides to make her part of his own plans for success, Aria finds her hormones are on fire. Both are consumed by a passion for sex and success that drives them together in a burst of flames that both justifies the title Electric IMPULSE and sets the stage for a rollicking ride through love, lust, success, failure, and everything in between.

 

The ideal reader of Electric IMPULSE won't be stymied or put off by graphic sexual descriptions or the ribald explorations of a young woman who finds her world has shut down unexpectedly; then opened up in new ways. Crushing disappointment neatly sets the scene for something far from Aria's intentions or knowledge, and while there is a good degree of give-and-take and some manipulation and special interests at stake; also present is the kind of growth opportunity and exploration that sets the stage for confronting childhood issues and adult perceptions.

 

Aria's growth takes place not just in the sexual arena but in her maturity level as she embarks on a journey she could never have predicted, jump-starting a stagnant love life with a relationship she can barely define as 'love', much less the kind of lifestyle she'd envisioned as being her original goal.

 

To call this story a 'romance' alone would be to do it a disservice; though a powerful romantic overlay contributes to the story's appeal. Even though lust, sexual encounters, and love are part of Aria's story, just as compelling is the account of how she changes her relationships to the men and women in her life and how she evolves new insights and perspectives about life (whether for good or bad) based on her encounters and observations with Phoenix.

 

Descriptions of these moments are astute and clear, marking the points where Aria learns about herself, Phoenix, values, and approaches to business and life.

 

Electric IMPULSE is a pointed journey of self-discovery in which Aria lets go of her perception that her worth lies in her relationship with a man and embarks on a hunt for what is truly of value to her world. She initially doesn't know what she's getting into with Phoenix, but things are just starting to make sense. Readers who follow her journey will find it thought-provokingly vivid and filled with confrontation, reflection, observation, and the kinds of questions that lead to new beginnings, empowerment, and growth both for the protagonist and, possibly, for her followers.

 

Women interested in contemporary blends of literary, psychological, and social reflection will find plenty to like about Ari and Electric IMPULSE, a story of how empowerment and self-realization actually begin.

A Riveting Blend of Thriller and Sci-Fi

Transmission - Morgan Rice

Book 1 of the Invasion Chronicles represents a departure for fantasy series writer Morgan Rice, who here places her affinity for fantasy in the adjacent realm of science fiction. 

 

The story opens with teen Kevin's growing struggles with visions and paralyzing headaches: a condition that's been diagnosed as a degenerative brain disorder, but which actually proves to be something quite different. 

 

Kevin's visions initially involve a strange string of numbers; but as he begins to also see planets, a burning sun, and a kind of countdown, he eventually comes to realize that his condition and hallucinations are much more than a physical death sentence. They're actually a transmission from an unknown extraterrestrial entity and they portend a danger only Kevin may be able to address. 

 

Kevin knows about sci-fi and realizes that in the movies, important people would quickly recognize the value of his experiences. But, he's only thirteen. How can he convince the adults around him—including his mother—that he is experiencing something more than a brain malfunction's final hallucinations? 

 

As a psychiatrist helps him think differently about his visions and disease and various options for coping with both, Kevin is provided with the kinds of tools that lead him to a number of well-kept secrets right on his home planet; from hidden bunkers and military projects to scientists, government concerns, and a conundrum for the world which arises when Kevin dares to talk about aliens on TV. 

 

Suddenly the secret's out, and Kevin finds himself in the middle of a series of dilemmas that will affect Earth's future and humanity's choices. 

 

One strength in Transmission lies in a plot which at first seems familiar (boy discovers alien invasion, child becomes a key to events as they unfold), but takes some unexpected diversions into areas of international intrigue, adding thriller elements that are surprising in a sci-fi story that will reach adults as much as young adult audiences. 

 

These journeys into other countries and other concerns add depth and surprising dimensions into a story that many readers will anticipate as a standard alien invasion plot, offering an approach that juxtaposes a boy's deadly illness with his equally challenging new abilities. 

 

In presenting the key character as an unusually savvy 13-year-old, Morgan Rice is in danger of having this survey regulated to teen audiences alone; and that would be a shame. Although Kevin's age is one of the facets that enters into his ability to perceive what others cannot and his flexibility to accept the impossible, his unusual wisdom and involvements with adult affairs from NASA to confrontations in Columbia hint of a maturity level far beyond a thirteen-year-old's abilities. This makes the story quite accessible to adult sci-fi thriller readers who might not ordinarily pick up a read featuring a teen protagonist. 

 

The deeper issues of honor, faith, and questionable alien intentions are neatly woven into a young boy's quickly-evolving personality as readers find themselves engrossed in an unexpected series of events once the initial platform of an incurable illness and impossible visions is presented in the opening chapters. The pleasure here is that an aura of predictability is crafted; then turned upside down, which creates an atmosphere of surprise not typical in most sci-fi alien invasion tales. 

 

Morgan Rice is a series writer. This means that, like her other productions, Transmission is not only the first in a series; but ends in a cliffhanger that leaves outcomes questionable and begs for continuation. 

 

Riveting, unexpected, and firmly rooted in strong psychological profiles backed with thriller and sci-fi elements: what more could readers wish for? (Just the quick publication of Book Two, Arrival.) 

Poetry for Reflection, Inspiration and Transformation

Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief - Diamante Lavendar

Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief gathers Diamante Lavendar's own insights on how she charted a path through grief, and pairs free verse poems that double as uplifting admonitions ("There is so much more/To every instance/Than we can comprehend.") with prose and the author's lovely color art images. 

 

From illusions of darkness and separation to the realities of harboring false beliefs and following the road to healing, Lavendar's verse and insights follow the process of not only recovery; but finding the kind of empathy and understanding from the healing process that strengthens other connections in life. 

 

The juxtaposition of nature-oriented images and art with these admonitions lends a visual touch to the written word that enhances both with a structure and reinforcement that either alone could not have achieved. 

 

Those who will benefit most from Lavendar's approach are readers who are seeking their own paths to healing and greater enlightenment, who can accept her candid assessments of what the process of grieving leads to ("Death is not an ending but a beginning to a different reality, not only/for the bereaved but also for those who have passed into eternity."). 

 

This audience will relish the message of Lavendar's art and words and will discover not just a quiet comfort offered within the pages of Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief, but a broader message that holds clues to finding strength from weakness and ultimately transforming grief into a growth experience. 

 

Readers interested in finding opportunities from the great of adversities will keep Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief close at hand for reflection, inspiration, and ultimately transformation. 

An Action-Packed Equine DNA Mystery

Blood Horse - Chris Thomas

Stories featuring horses usually revolve around racetracks or young adult infatuations with equines; but Blood Horse is a horse of another color. Its sci-fi revolves around an experimental DNA treatment intended to promote healing from an injury, but which actually supercharges the killer instinct.

In a horse? Read on, because horse action doesn't get any more gripping than this.

The story begins in a familiar way: a teen jockey's horse fails a jump and breaks a leg. Usually this is where the story would become one of a teen's love for her broken steed and her ability to heal it; but Blood Horse takes a different turn when high-tech is applied as a solution and seemingly produces a miracle.

As Christopher Thomas follows the evolution of a mild-mannered, beloved family horse into a killing machine, readers receive a slow build-up into the inevitable that takes a nice turn away from the specter of a girl's love for her horse and moves into the realm of a well-meaning scientific experiment gone awry.

Interestingly, the main characters are young adults, which would seem to peg this read as one recommended for this age group were it not for the Cujo-like horror involved in the horse's altered personality. This means that mature teens to adult readers alike will appreciate the story's premises and direction, finding it an accessible read driven as much by the teens' evolving personalities and relationships as by the story of a DNA experiment gone wrong. (Caveat: there are enough adult themes and references here to keep this from being recommendable for teens below the age of 17. Blood Horse decidedly stands on the cusp of mature teen to new adult and adult readers - and this is a fine audience for it.)

As Sammy runs away during his ongoing evolutionary process, Tina follows, and readers receive a gripping story that offers satisfying changes as she comes to realize her former best friend is deeply changing on psychological and physical levels alike.

Involving and dark, Blood Horse holds adventure and a message and will keep its readers thoroughly on board for a vigorous ride holding plenty of surprises right up to its unexpected ending.

The Dynamic Story of a Dynamic Duo!

Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds: Princess Leia & Unsinkable Tammy in Hell (Blood Moon's Babylon Series) - Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince

Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds: Princess Leia & Unsinkable Tammy in Hell represents the first in-depth biography of the mother-daughter duo, and is especially recommended for prior fans of either woman, who will find this survey replete with new information, scandals, and colorful insights.

 

Black and white vintage photos liberally pepper a series of revelations which assume the high drama and attraction of hot Hollywood gossip, but with an overlay of truth that attends to revealing not only the lives of and connections between Fisher and Reynolds, but their overall, lasting impact on Hollywood and pop culture alike.

 

It's rare that a survey of much-publicized icons offers unique perspectives and new information, but Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds does so in a sweeping, thoroughly engrossing manner that will give their fans new insights and perspectives.

 

While no Hollywood library should be without this authoritative coverage, it should also be mentioned that despite its volume (over six hundred pages of detail), it's quite accessible to those with relatively little prior information about the duo, who will find that the length of the volume in no way precludes its value as both a serious study and an attractive leisure read.

A Dark Noir Sci-Fi Satire!

Thrilling Times - Robert Rubenstein

Thrilling Times combines a dark noir detective piece with a psychological drama replete with elements of literary and political satire; and while the effort sometimes proves a challenge to neatly categorize for genre-specific marketing purposes, it cultivates a dark sense of entertainment and angst.

 

On the surface, this is the story of a detective recovering from electro-shock therapy who is on a mission to find the girl who landed him in trouble. However, this is no light pursuit. Thrilling Times presents graphic metaphorical sexual scenes, violence, a talented female photographer's penchant for depicting realistic terror in her 'galleries of the gruesome', and evolving relationships between men, women, and those who would obtain power over one another.

 

All this is woven into a complex backdrop of social inspection and accusation, the creation of masterpieces of depravity, terror and horror, and sizzling scenes designed to agitate reader sensibilities as they follow a murky, complex world and characters who can barely navigate their lives; much less each other.

 

Hidden within the overlay of a detective piece are a series of literary and social reflections that force readers to wade through scenarios of depravity and dark characters in survival mode to navigate the trajectories of love and its high price.

 

There are characters willing to die for love and possession as well as moments of passion intertwined with graphic displays of depravity, juxtaposed with sweet scenes that each demonstrate Robert Rubenstein's prowess at crafting metaphor and analysis.

 

The language is as much a draw in the story line as its characters and their special purposes, immersing readers in a mercurial adventure story that moves from political jest and social inspection to the dilemma of the personal with an 'everyman' lost in illusions surrounding the pursuit of love and connections.

 

From the two-sided nature of modern culture to the setting of post-apocalyptic America and its fractured society, Thrilling Times continually challenges its readers with thought-provoking clashes of reason, psyche, and social and political structure. It is especially recommended for literary audiences who like their stories steeped in metaphorical yet explicit sexual encounters tempered with satiric and pointed observations of social and individual condition. Thrilling times, indeed!

A Memoir of Family Ties and Loss

Missing Persons: A Memoir - Gayle Greene Ph.D

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. 

 

A Fun Story for Aspiring Young Writers

The Reading Parrot Named Darwin - Mary Sage Nguyen

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.

 

A Compelling Thriller of Puerto Rican Daily Life and Murder

August Murder - Miranda Lee

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." 

 

  1. Miranda's ability to take a real-world scandal and use its details to enlighten readers about the underlying culture, social issues, and political pressures in Puerto Rico contributes to an outstanding thriller especially recommended for modern readers who would gain a sense of the island's processes and peoples. 

Psychological and Social Reflections on a Life Reborn

Words Never Spoken - Cheryl Denise Bannerman

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.

 

Nonstop Action for Fantasy and Thriller Fans

The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb - Ricardo Alexanders

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.