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The US Review of Books connects authors with professional book reviewers and gets their book reviews in front of more than 14,000 subscribers to our free monthly newsletter of fiction book reviews and nonfiction book reviews. Learn why our publication is different than most others, or read author and publisher testimonials about the USR.

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Focus Review
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Asteroids IV
edited by Michel, Demeo, and Bottke
Univ. of Arizona Press


"Like fossils for paleontologists, or DNA for geneticists, [asteroids] allow us to construct a veritable time machine and provide us with tantalizing glimpses of the earliest nature of our solar system."

To many, asteroids exist as mere space rocks of various sizes—out of sight and out of mind. To others, they are potential hazards, capable of destroying the Earth in epic Hollywood fashion. To treasure hunters, they hold potential resources—not the least of which is water beyond the hope of mineral exploitation. However, to scientists, they hold major clues to the origin and evolution of the universe—circulating through the solar system with a unique set of characteristics and behaviors. ... (read more)

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Featured Book Reviews

 

The Art of the Craft

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Notes from a Printmaker: Essays, Images, and Interviews
by Bob Tomolillo
Park Press Printers

reviewed by John E. Roper

"The renewed interest in printmaking has caused an eruption of alternative viewpoints to enter the discussion, including the validity of the printed image and its ability to inform and dictate new trends in society."

To the uninitiated, printmaking is frequently viewed as a profession peopled by trained craftsmen rather than a realm where the artist can also make his mark. But as the author so vividly makes clear through examples from both the past and his own background in the field, the skill and thinking behind the successful design and implementation of a print is a valid, if at times misunderstood, art form in its own right. The print studio can be a place where the expert craftsman and the accomplished artist can successfully collaborate to produce masterpieces. And, like all serious art, the print can also be a force in societal change. ... (read more)

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A Life Lived Forward

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

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

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

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

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Excellent Stories

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Bonds of Love & Blood
by Marylee MacDonald
Summertime Publications

reviewed by Caroline Blaha-Black

"What was wrong now had been wrong in the beginning. She had married Ashok out of necessity."

In her collection of twelve brilliantly-written short stories, MacDonald explores the pain and beauty of human relationships. MacDonald’s writing is raw and visceral, creating a strong emotional connection between her characters and the reader. The stories ring true when it comes to the many experiences and nuances of human relationships, such as love, divorce, and physical distance. The author, who is a winner of several literary prizes, delivers rich, full characters, who hold our interest and refuse to leave us until the end. ... (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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The Mysteries of Life

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The Crossbow Code
by M.C. Raj
Panther House

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"Kris gave an open invitation for tittle-tattle. Blessed gossip. Harbinger of human hope. Sluice gate of uncontainable truths."

There is a relatively straightforward story—a classic plot—within the pages of Raj’s novel. Readers will be compelled to see where this tale is going and how it will end. The real delight of this book however, is the journey to get to that end. It is with lilting language, imaginative sojourns, and memorable characters. ... Kris is a young man from India who shows up at the Vatican and is arrested on suspicion of terrorism. His two Muslim wives intercede with the Pope. Kris is released and granted a papal audience. Then the Pope winds up dead. Thus begins a fevered flight from the long arm of the law, the slow unraveling of a sinister conspiracy... (read more)

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A Riveting Read

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What She Knew
by Nadine Galinsky Feldman
CreateSpace

reviewed by Anita Lock

"If I could wish for anything, it would be for you to find balance... to know who you are without the trappings of outer success."

Shocked by the announcement at a Wall Street firm that federal agents have arrested Bernie Madoff for securities fraud, money manager Liz Nabor is also taken aback when her boss asks her to use unethical practices to procure a takeover during this troublesome period. Concurrently, Liz gets word that her estranged Aunt Eddie in Washington is dying and requests her presence. A tumultuous chain of events occur while Liz is on the west coast waiting for her aunt's impending death... (read more)

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Navigating the Patent Process

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

reviewed by Jacquelyn Gilchrist

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

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

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Challenging Love

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Inceptions: The Kate and Robert Chronicles
by Suzanne Eglington
Xlibris

reviewed by Michael Radon

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

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

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Authentic Poetry

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A War of Love
by William T. Elliott
Xlibris

reviewed by Mihir Shah

"Some say you need a gun to fight
but no you really don’t
Instead you need your God above
with Him there is your might."

In A War of Love, William T. Elliott seeks a therapeutic reprieve from nagging panic attacks, but instead ends up capturing the essence of the human spirit through a series of timeless, evergreen poems revolving around prayer, philosophy, nature, and animals. With no clear structure or rhythm, A War of Love won’t be mistaken for an Edgar Allen Poe or Sylvia Path piece; however, the stream of conscious style that Elliott exudes in his work has a genuine, heartfelt aura that will likely resonate with individuals of all ages. ... (read more)

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Lofty Mix of Science & Religion

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Golem
by Dr. Brian Balke
Trafford Publishing

reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

"Zenica opened her eyes in the forest, weeping tears that made tangible the fear that she had choked back since her return. The hope that swept in confirmed her faith. The sun poured through the heavens, dancing off the surface of the pool, and she bowed her head in gratitude to the Almighty."

In Jewish mythology, a golem is a mass of mud that can be shaped like clay to do the bidding of its master, without will or conscience. In Brian Balke’s latest sci-fi novel, the principal golem is named Wortrin, a perversely complex construction of electronic and mechanical devices wired to a maniacal brain. Wortrin’s godlike facade has thrown the forces of good and evil into imbalance, and the result could be universal oppression. But Wortrin, as a system, is failing. Corin, denizen of the planet Trialle along with his mother, Queen Zenica, is heading to Paltane to redirect Wortrin’s escalating negative influence. Corin, “the brilliant manifestation of exposure to concentrated spiritual energies” is the mate of Leelay ... (read more)

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What the Vintner Knows

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Nonno the Wine Maker
by Phil Scrima
Create Space

reviewed by Anita Lock

"...I guess the world hasn't changed that much over the years. Now it's even worse..."

Antonio and his girlfriend Natalia head for Napa Valley to visit Nonno, Antonio's centenarian grandfather. En route the two stop at a winery for some wine tasting since this is a new experience for Natalia. After receiving brief yet thorough instructions on the art of wine tasting, Antonio and Natalia meet up with Nonno. The over one-hundred-year-old man is considered one of the finest wine makers around, and at his age he is still amazingly agile—lovingly tending to his garden and vineyard. While Nonno prepares food for supper, he regales Antonio and Natalia with his bittersweet stories emigrating from Italy to America via Ellis Island. ... (read more)

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Few Good Men

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American Dictator
by Rick Ainsworth
VRA Publishing

reviewed by John E. Roper

"For several minutes, no one spoke, the scientists busy with their computer programs, and the generals seemingly stunned. Only the little man in the back of the room seemed nonplussed by the events."

The timing of Ainsworth's book is impeccable. Appearing when the U.S. presidential primaries are dominating the news channels, the author's novel about a fictitious campaign, election, and initial actions of a powerful American president has built-in appeal to appetites already whetted by current events. That it has so many parallels to our existing political climate and personalities only adds to its lure. But this book is much more than the average timely offering that fades once the interest of the news media and public shift to other matters. It is the beginning of a much larger and sobering tale that describes just how quickly a nation that prides itself on its freedom can fall into bondage. ... (read more)

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The Valor of War

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Remembering Private Lamb
by Leon Cooper
90 Day Wonder Publishing

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

"These are men I had never seen before, would probably never see again, and yet an aching sadness overcomes me with the realization that the lives of each would soon be in peril."

Part fact, part fiction, this novel recounts one man’s determination to honor those he fought with at the battle of Tarawa in World War II. An aging veteran sees a report showing the worlds’ refuse stacking up on Pacific Island shores—one of which is Red Beach, where he fought and his comrades died. He remembers one soldier who saved his and others’ lives the day they stormed inland. Determined to help cleanse what he considers hallowed ground, he embarks on a mission to restore the beach and to uncover what happened to the Private he’s never forgotten. What follows is a tale of heroism on the battlefield... (read more)

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Life's Grand Adventure

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The Distance to the End
by Michael Aaron Casares
Serasac Press

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"We were creatures of the moment. We were high on life in ways some would never understand."

Four former drug users return to Las Vegas to celebrate a substantial lottery win. What could possibly go wrong? Nicholas Duke is drinking the moment in. For him, life is perfect. He has his estranged boyfriend, Raoul, back in his life, and his two best friends, Neville and Gladys, are around to partake in some nostalgic activities. The four are living the high life of limos, private planes, and lots and lots of drugs. None of them seem to realize that a lot can happen in just one short trip, especially when your destination is the city of vices. ... (read more)

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Making Life Larger

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90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or More)
by Felice Cohen
Dividends Press

reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman

"Those items for which there is no collective place - items stacked on tables, shoved into the back of closets - are most likely items you don't use or need."

In 2007, Felice Cohen quit her job and moved into an apartment in the Upper West Side to focus on her writing. Her new home was in a great location at an even better price. The only catch: It had 90 square feet of floor space. Felice's tiny apartment caught the public's eye, and before she knew it, a video of her space went viral on YouTube. This book is a collection of ninety lessons she learned from living in such a small space. ... (read more)

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First Chapter Reviews


First Chapter Review archive

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Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists
by Tom Benjey
University of Montana Press

Initially, the titular Craighead family is spoken of in the same manner that one would recall a historical legend or tall tale, but this capable and incredible family responsible for so many acts of natural preservation truly did exist. The story begins with the teenage twin Craighead boys, Frank Jr. and John bored in the springtime looking for a new skill to master. Surprisingly, the two set their sights on falconry, becoming just the fifth and sixth Americans participating in the sport and certainly the youngest. ... (read more)

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

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

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