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Focus Review
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Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space
by Janna Levin
Knopf


"We see evidence of black holes destroying neighboring stars. We see evidence of super black holes in centers of galaxies... But we have never really seen a black hole, which only adds to the thrill of the prospect of hearing them."

Astronauts returning on the space shuttle once told this former satellite designer and space program physicist: "You have no idea how much gravity is pulling down on all of us." Home from the sheer joy of weightless space living, the dynamics of gravity were suddenly made real, pulling their shoulders and compressing their spines closer to Earth. It was a reminder of one of the universe's illusive mysteries—gravity. We can measure and explain it, but we cannot see or hear it... yet. Physicist and writer Janna Levin takes us on the journey to detect, listen for, gravitational waves as the byproduct of a gigantic collision between black holes. ... (read more)

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Featured Book Reviews

 

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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An Epic Thrill Ride

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The Gem Connection: A C.J. Cavanaugh Mystery
by Michael Lane
Booklocker

reviewed by Jennifer Weiss

"Besides not buying the story about Renita, she was suspicious about the extent of my involvement in this case. My weakness for children would have been a plausible explanation."

C.J. Cavanaugh is a well known private investigator. C.J. and his partner Renita Harris are hired by a mystery client to solve the murder of Clinton Windell, but they are not allowed to tell anyone about the case. Instead, they assume a false identity, a false job so to speak, to uncover the facts. Windell has not only been brutally murdered in his home, but also was robbed of his uncut gems worth twenty million dollars. Trying to remain anonymous, C.J. and Renita must become creative and think outside the box in order to solve the case. Michael Lane's story takes readers on a thrilling ride filled with excitement, mystery, and suspense. Mystery fans haven't read a story quite like this one. ... (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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A Seasoned Writer

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UFOs and God
by Michael R. Lane
Bare Bones Press

reviewed by Lee Ware

"I was actually doing well until I heard her voice and all that changed. She resurrected the void in my life. I hated her for that, her and Alexander Graham Bell."

The stories range from a couple of pages to over thirty. They begin with two boys tossing pebbles and making wishes into a well, and they end with a writer awaiting the return of his wife while he contemplates the lives and scenery surrounding him. In between, we have World War II soldiers, a devout believer in UFOs, a man deciding whether to live or die, and many others creating a varied spectrum of characters and settings allowing the reader to slip from one world to the next. The stories themselves are not centered around a single idea or place, but... (read more)

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Death on the Sea

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The Body on the Lido Deck
by Jane Bennett Munro
iUniverse

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"[I] saw something fall. With a squishy thud, it hit the edge of the swimming pool and bounced into the water. Red-tinged ripples spread out from where it went in. ... A trick of the light? Or was it blood?"

Pathologist Toni Day is supposed to be relaxing on a cruise to the Caribbean, but when a decapitated head nearly lands in her lap, she just has to get involved. Someone has killed a woman then stuffed her body into the roof the Lido deck. The captain is acting suspiciously, the crew's doctor is nowhere to be found in crucial moments, and, as far as Toni is concerned, no one can be trusted. How did the woman wind up in the closed roof? How does this case connect to an unsolved murder from twenty-five years ago? And why can't any of the evidence ever seem to stay in one place? ... (read more)

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A New Season

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She's Got the Jack: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

"He sighed as I looked at the screen full of photos of me. 'What's this?' He answered very monotone, 'My wife in another man's eyes."

At the end of the previous book, Kate and Robert's near-idyllic, passionate whirlwind romance and marriage was struck with family tragedy at the car accident her pregnant sister and brother-in-law were in. This story opens with the joint funeral of this crash that claimed the life of Kevin and Stacey. Just when the situation seems like it can't get any worse, the dark twist that Kevin has been spying on Kate and taking photos of her, chasing after his unrequited love, comes to the surface. Kate and Robert must come to terms with this information in their own ways... (read more)

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Consideration of the Mystical Path

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The Paths of Destiny
by Lilian Nirupa
AuthorHouse

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

"The Jyotishian, or expert in understanding the signs, following specific instructions of the sages stored in many thousands of rules, will use them to depict an interpretation of the person's whole life by creating a Jyotish reading."

Astrology—the belief that planets and other heavenly bodies can influence our lives—is considered by some to be a science which, properly understood and utilized, can provide practical guidance. Author Lilian Nirupa, practitioner of the Vedic astrological system called Jyotish ("light of God"), is a Christian who here expresses her conviction that Jyotish, while grounded in Eastern (Hindu) religion, can also benefit those who follow other spiritual paths. Her book is a basic explication of the Jyotish system, suitable for someone new to both astrology and Vedic teachings. She provides astrological charts and other diagrams to illustrate the many "thousands of rules" mentioned above. ... (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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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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Cycling into Awareness

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Buddha, Christ, and the Eagle: Finding Happiness
by Dr. Frances Rinaldi
CreateSpace

reviewed by John E. Roper

"In the depth of shadows nearby, an old-world temple towered. To her surprise she saw a young monk standing by the temple's door."

Janet Locke's world is crumbling. After a stroke debilitates her husband, David, for several months, the resulting bills and a decline in their business threaten to cost them not only their own home but, more importantly in Janet's mind, that of her mother's. Normally, leaving for an international getaway under such circumstances would be the epitome of foolishness, but Janet's frequent flyer miles and credit from a previously cancelled trip make a vacation from their troubles doable. So, hoping that the trip will prove therapeutic, Janet and David head for Thailand where, after spending some time seeing the sights together, Janet continues on alone to join a cycling tour in Bhutan. The journey will not only affect her physically but also spiritually. ... (read more)

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Young Immigrant Struggles

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Left Across the Border: Teenage Depression, Volume 1
by Patrice M. Foster
patricemfoster.com

reviewed by John E. Roper

"I don't want to explain what he did next. I tried to fight. I tried not to think about what he was doing."

In the beginning Flora saw herself as the hero. Her family had made the difficult decision to send her across the Mexican border into the United States. Yes, the crossing had been illegal, but if Flora could make it in America then eventually her family could join her and escape the crushing poverty and danger of life in their home country. However, her dream quickly dissolved into a nightmare. Mateo, the man that her Papa had said was like family in Southern California, turned out to be cold and indifferent to her. She found herself living in a small house with 14 other people, one of whom sexually abused her on her very first night. ... (read more)

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Stylish, Binge-Worthy Thriller

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Devil in the Dark
by Chris Lindberg
CreateSpace

reviewed by Sheelonee Banerjee

"The wraith appeared to be half-man, half-beast: he was panting uncontrollably... like a rabid wolf growling at its prey."

When Javier Oropeza, Mexico's most powerful drug lord, orchestrates a lethal terrorist attack on a United States-Mexico border crossing in southwestern Texas, the Pentagon unleashes Rage—a deadly super soldier called the Specialist—as part of a highly trained team to defeat him. Meanwhile, Border Patrol Officer Otis Brown survives the attack and suspects that migrant worker Enrique Castillo—who also survived the attack and fled the scene—is a culprit. As Otis tracks down Enrique, he finds that Oropeza, Enrique's uncle, has blackmailed Enrique into working for him. Soon enough, they find themselves deep inside Mexico's crime world, and their paths converge with that of Rage. Together, they must race to stop Oropeza's ruinous future plans. ... (read more)

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An Innovative Memoir

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Crumbs Cast Upon the Current
by Allan Wooley
iUniverse

reviewed by RJM Terrado

"Know your inner self, and then become what you really are!"

A memoir with good chapters is a treat. But a book with reflective stories, poems and essays rolled into one memoir is a feast. Crumbs Cast Upon the Current is a reading feast with different sections told in different literary genres: stories, poems, and essays. The first section starts with a story on the author's physical travel from Exeter, New Hampshire to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, which centers on his ascent to grandfatherhood. It is followed by a metaphoric travel story, about the author's father and his journey from being a gregarious and personable person to being melancholic and antisocial after the death of his son Johnnie, the author's younger brother. The section is then ended with the author's yet another physical travel, now to his hillside retreat on Mount Morgan, Vermont, and the euphoria and psychological boost it brings. ... (read more)

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Investment for the People

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A Wall Street Bailout for Main Street: This Bulletproof Trade Will Help You Get Paid
by Iris Marie Mack, PhD, EMBA
CreateSpace

reviewed by Michael Radon

"This bulletproof trading strategy is analogous to real estate investors leasing property in exchange for an acceptable rent payment."

The bailing out of banks considered "too big to fail" by the government in the latter days of the Bush administration and into the next left many people struggling to get by, disenfranchised and wondering how the massive institutions could be rescued, but not them. With those people in mind, the author, holding a doctorate in Applied Mathematics from Harvard and a Sloan Fellowship Executive Master's of Business Administration from the London Business School, employs a strategy for trading stock options that anybody can profit from. Through the buying and selling of covered call options, this strategy allows people to make additional money through their portfolios without the actual trading of the stocks themselves, essentially generating thousands of dollars of extra income. ... (read more)

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The DOXA Method for Self-Understanding

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Passion Spirit Purpose: 3 Formulas to Introduce the DOXA Method to Empower You to Love Your Life
by Ana Weber
Balboa Press

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

"Every puzzle we encounter, every challenge that calls for our creativity, lets us build part of a new foundation of self-esteem and self-love as we take ownership of our actions and solve the mystery."

In 157 pages, twenty-two chapters, an appendix, and endnotes, the author explores how to grow through a sense of empowerment. The initial chapter, which focuses on using the DOXA way, sets the stage for the rest of the book. DOXA is about Desire, Outstanding, Xing, out the impossible, and Allowing you to be you. This chapter leads to others on mysteries, desire, and living in the now of DOXA. Other chapters include your purpose, intentions, learning and growing, freedom, your metaphorical grocery bag regarding taking an inventory of your day, and a cautionary tale regarding relationships. Continuing chapters reveal living in the now, listening to the inner voice, compromise, gratitude, accepting the unknown, her story of her immigration, love, and celebrating each day. The Appendix examines conversation starters for a dialogue with yourself such as, "Are you happy at your job?" and others. ... (read more)

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The Ordeal of Grief

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Horseneck: The Meaning of Ordeal
by B.K.Smith
Madison Avenue Publishers

reviewed by Michael Radon

"It's strange, but when you're expecting the greatest things it's the perfect little pearls that turn up."

A drunk father and an emotionally abusive mother create an environment in which the narrator, a young girl, must take care of her younger siblings while withstanding the pains of a family that blames her for all of their problems. In time, the narrator grows and estranges herself from her family, despite repeated attempts to rekindle a relationship that ends in shame and slander. After a disastrous first marriage, she meets Paul, an heir to a family golf course business who falls fast in love with her. Paul, too, has his family demons, stemming mostly from his mother Zelda who is equally abusive as the narrator's mother. They temper their excitement and have trysts in passing, neither one capable of deep emotional commitment after their troubled pasts, but eventually their passion overwhelms them. They flee together, leaving the east coast to head to Arizona together, leaving behind the pain of their lives, but their happiness is not meant to last. ... (read more)

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An Ordered, Challenging World

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Age of Order
by Julian North
Julian North

reviewed by Michael Radon

"I looked at him with sharp eyes and tight lips. The bastard had guessed why I dreamed of getting into MU."

Daniela Machado is a high-school student in the dystopian barrio of Bronx City. With growing divides between races and classes due to the changes that have happened in the country, a war zone is breaking out between the genetically perfected highborns in Manhattan and the nopes residing in the poorer districts. Daniela only wants two things in life: to continue her dominant winning streak on the school track team, and to cure her brother Mateo of a mysterious disease known as The Waste, which only infects poorer people and kills them off while young. Daniela is offered a free ride scholarship to the Tuck Academy, a Manhattan school for the gifted, offering her a possibility of achieving both of her goals. Being pulled into the world of the highborns, however, carries with it significant risks. ... (read more)

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Triump and Disaster

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The Game Changer
by Dave Dröge
MVO Productions

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"No longer being able to enjoy procrastination is the beginning of all misery in the world, I philosophized on the loose, turning the corner past Hotel Bazar. "

Rudyard Kipling once posited that triumph and disaster are imposters and should rightly be treated as such. Both charlatans are on constant display in this novel of one man’s seismic struggle to come to grips with forces assaulting him from all sides. His wife has left him for another woman, his child is publicly embarrassing him, his business is in danger of collapsing, and the government is hot on his trail. The good news is there’s a bar on almost every corner. ... (read more)

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An Intricate Mystery Unfolds

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The Girl at the Bar
by Nicholas Nash
Fireflies Publishing

reviewed by Anita Lock

"You always have a choice."

A whirlwind one-night stand turns into a bizarre nightmare for Ragnar Johnson after meeting cancer researcher Rebecca Chase at a local New York City bar. Her mysterious disappearance the following morning initiates a multitude of search parties, including Ragnar's personal investigation. Unfortunately, the police keep interrupting Ragnar's quest to find Rebecca since they earmark him as a possible suspect for a couple of different reasons. Besides the fact that he was the last person seen with Rebecca, Ragnar has a bit of a shady past as well as mental issues. ... (read more)

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The Saga Concludes

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Twin River IV: CU When U Get There
by Michael Fields
Xlibris

reviewed by Donna Ford

"Something about getting there. Something about being strong, being true to yourself, and being who you want to be."

This fast-paced novel is the fourth volume in a horror fiction series and brings back two main characters: Abel and his now-grown nephew Cain Towers. They have been living in the western desert, but are kept informed about Twin River goings-on by Stephon, the caretaker of the old Towers properties. ... (read more)

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An Embattled America

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The Cost of Liberty
by Michael Skeen
BookVenture Publishing

reviewed by John E. Roper

"I could feel the warmth of my blood running down my face and I continued to struggle to breath. I heard a command in Arabic and the associate released me."

How could it have all come down to this? For Don Ladner, the dreamlike success and security of his appointment less than two years ago as White House Chief of Staff in the administration of President T.J. Samuels had descended into an unimaginable nightmare. Now, instead of standing at the side of arguably the most powerful political figure on the planet, he was being interrogated like a criminal by a representative of the Islamic Caliphate, and the country he had once served in the role of Samuels' right-hand man was possibly no more. ... (read more)

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Discussing God, Again

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God Theories
by Ken Ungerecht
Xibris

reviewed by George Furukawa

"The question of whether there is a Supreme Intelligence that has influence in the universe and world in which we find ourselves is one that has intrigued, confounded, and plagued the minds of men as long as there have been minds of men."

Does God exist? Is the concept of a divine and all powerful being a viable explanation for miracles worldwide that have been documented for centuries? If God does exist, then why are we witnessing in the news media famine, diseases, hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, genocide, and so forth? How can God allow this to happen? Does this strengthen the notion that we should instead rely on science to address the countless challenges we face today? ... (read more)

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History Crafted Through Memoir

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An Adventure in 1914
by T. Tileston Wells
edited by Christopher Kelly
History Invasions Press

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"In each compartment was a printed notice saying that if you opened a window or a door when the train was moving that you were liable to be shot."

This thin, but handsomely produced hardback is a glimpse of what Europe looked like to an American and his family at the outset of World War I. It’s the first-person chronicle of T. Tileston Wells, a New York attorney who sailed for the continent little knowing that prior to arrival, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be assassinated. ... (read more)

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Gratitude for Life

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A Joyful Life
by Michèle Swiderski
KiCam Projects

reviewed by Jennifer Hummer

"Each morning, I would ask my spirit what it needed that day. Did it want to create something in my sewing workroom? Cocoon on the couch with a novel and a cup of tea?"

Michèle Swiderski, mid-40s, lives with her husband, Robert, and their teen children in Ontario. Overwhelmed by depression, Michèle quits her job and hibernates at home. It isn't until her daughter encourages her to change her life, that Michèle finally listens. Michèle starts by finding small projects to succeed in (i.e. crafting and sewing) and begins to journal about them. With these small successes, Michèle begins teaching her brain to form a new image of herself—a successful one. ... (read more)

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An Intelligent Thriller

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He Counts Their Tears
by Mary Ann D'Alto
Dog Ear Publishing

reviewed by Sheelonee Banerjee

"So, the way a hunter surveyed the woods for an animal to shoot, so Aaron constantly perused his surroundings for perfect prey."

Behind his flawless facade of a charismatic, good-looking doctor, Aaron Stein is a vicious monster. Hungry for power and control, he enacts fake relationships with women just for the pleasure of discarding them. His cruel games, however, suddenly go awry, threatening to reveal his inner madness to the world. Feeling powerless, he turns to his loyal cousin, Constance, who will do anything to suppress their sinister secrets and save him. ... (read more)

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Facing Demons

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Exit Lives
by Jamel Gross
BookVenture Publishing

reviewed by Sheelonee Banerjee

"The tortured should not dream.
Daydreams, nightmares, and illusions
Generate a hellish reality."

Troubled Luke becomes a suspect when his grandparents die mysteriously. To avoid the police—and the memories of his dysfunctional family—he decides to leave the country with his wife, Mary Beth. When their Cadillac almost crashes on the way to the airport, a stranger named Dave gives them a lift. As they drive on, strange encounters, fractured flashbacks, and grisly murders ominously connect them to Leather, a serial killer on the prowl. ... (read more)

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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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Envoy of Jerusalem: Balian d'Ibelin and the Third Crusade
by Helena P. Schrader
Wheatmark

History remembers Balian d'Ibelin—husband of Dowager Queen of Jerusalemm, Maria Comnena—as a diplomat and warrior. After the Christian army's defeat at the Battle of Hattin, almost all of the Kingdom of Jerusalem falls to Salah ad-Din, and survivors move to the city of Tyre. The book begins on the day news reaches Tyre that Jerusalem has yielded. In this third volume in the award-winning series based on Balian d'Ibelin, the no-nonsense first chapter hooks the reader with crucial historical links. ... (read more)

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