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The US Review of Books connects authors with professional book reviewers and places their book reviews in front of 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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Recent Book Reviews

 

Focus Review
Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Viral War: A Fairytale of Perfect Women
by Josephine deBois
AuthorHouse


"And now, perfect women; yes, but we always managed to make women perfect."

In New York City, Samuel, an ordinary traffic cop, manages to thwart an attempted kidnapping. This sets him on an investigation like no other. He befriends Sohee Suh, the acclaimed Korean singer who was almost kidnapped. Sohee's DNA carries a secret that Samuel works to uncover, exposing a complex plot involving sex trafficking, government coverups, and biological warfare. ... (read more)

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Featured Book Reviews

 

The Unspoken

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

In the Aftermath: 9/11 Through a Volunteer's Eyes
by Beth SK Morris
Poetica Publishing


"Subway destroyed, they fled east
on foot, heads covered with ash,
some wearing masks, some still
bleeding from the debris"

This cathartic, eye-opening account of the tragedy that 9/11 bestowed upon the United States transports readers to Ground Zero, where ash and debris fall, where loved ones disappear, and where for years to come, the day’s physical, emotional, and psychological scarrings refuse to disappear, let alone fade. In this haunting collection, the poem “By the Numbers, 6000” reduces humanity to “body parts recovered, sorted / into segments small enough / to fit in a test tube.” Readers find themselves face-to-face with a wife who “buries her face in her workbook, lowers her eyes” as she confesses the potential loss of her husband and the consequences his disappearance bestows upon her and her daughter’s future in the poem “The Lesson.” Meanwhile, toxic xenophobia permeates American society and shocks readers to their cores as they experience it for themselves in the poem “The Physics of Ripples.” ... (read more)

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Secrets & Bonds

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Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Your Father has Something to Tell You
by Dave Riese
Flying Heron Publishing


"Only now do I find the empty space inside me where he had always lived."

Mark returns to Massachusetts from Chicago-land on short notice and during a stressful work period to visit sick parents. He and his sister worry they've started drinking again, a habit they promised their kids years ago that they had quit for good. After the visit, when Mark is passed over for a promotion, he finds new work around Boston. As his parents deteriorate over the next few years, Mark laments the dwindling time he has with them and revisits haunting childhood memories. . ... (read more)

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Evocative Prose

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Woven Flag
by Margaret Fourt Goka
BookVenture Publishing LLC


"Childhood is a spaceship full of friends
that rockets into the future.
I will be there when it lands
like a kitten on its feet"

In her second book of collected poetry, the author has organized her musings and insights into six categories. Each chapter follows the themes of home, animals, places, riddles, caffeine and wine, and family respectively. The home chapter is the most explored, following memories of homemaking and raising children with all the energy and chaos they can bring. The chapter on animals considers the impact of family pets and wonders what life would be like in animal form. The chapter on places recalls old residences and other colorful memories of location. When writing on the theme of riddles, the poet considers things that are somewhat contradictory or mysterious about life. Not surprisingly, the chapter on caffeine and wine is a treat for the sense of taste, using language to express flavor. Finally, when exploring the topic of family, Goka revisits the endless tasks of homemaking, as well as considering her dual role as both mother and child. ... (read more)

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The Unexpected

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Mom's Gone Missing: When a Parent’s Changing Life Upends Yours
by Susan A. Marshall
HenschelHAUS Publishing


"Working with someone whose mental capabilities are compromised is a constant exercise in patience and acceptance."

When Susan Marshall gets the phone call from her brother telling her that her mother is missing, she is shocked to find that her mother is descending into dementia just months after her father has succumbed to Alzheimer's. Marshall finds herself wholly unprepared to face the myriad of decisions that arise as she navigates the health, financial, and legal issues that come with caring for her mother. In addition, she must untangle the frustrations and expectations of her siblings when they lose both parents within ten months of each other. Exploring aging, dying, and caregiving issues, Marshall shares her singular experience as a daughter coming to terms with the past and all its choices, forking paths, and a future without her parents. Her account movingly connects to universal truths and familiar tribulations that offer readers comfort and support. Marshall views her writing and reflection as "a hand extended," which is a fitting gesture that matches the words and revelatory stories in this memoir. This honest story of caring for her mother is truly an offering to those seeking another's experience of preparing for and watching a parent slowly diminish from dementia or Alzheimer's. ... (read more)

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Social Scene

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Cromby's Axiom
by Gary J. Kirchner
FriesenPress


"He was an outsider, looking at the world dully, as if through bad optics, as if it were black and white when it should have been brilliant colour."

Kirchner paints a bleak, highly controversial picture of humanity's future in his debut novel that is reminiscent of other dystopian masterpieces like The Matrix. Kirchner places the reader in the mind of its protagonist, Tommy (or "TeePee" as his raving fan base calls him), to ponder whether privacy and independence are more important than a constant connection with others on a level that is beyond words. Like The Matrix's Neo, Tommy is metaphorically "unplugged" from the technological world he has been rooted in and forced to make a difficult choice: join a band of independent thinkers, known as the Ketchen, who dream of a revolution that will free the minds of all, or re-integrate himself back into the Hive, to be embraced by the love and adoration of eight million people. ... (read more)

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Wisdom

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Harnessing the Power of Grief
by Julie Potter, MSW, LCSW
MSI Press


"Exploring the many ways grief may manifest helps you to accept what you are experiencing as normal and to accept the experience of others."

With her background in coordinating hospital-based bereavement programs, author Potter presents a depth of information for anyone in the midst of grief, anticipating grieving circumstances, or looking back on the intensity of loss and reacting to that memory. She examines the way different cultures, past and present, accept and incorporate grief. She presents four "tasks" for the grieving person to follow: accepting the reality of loss, experiencing the pain, adjusting to the world without a loved one, and embarking on a new life that will include rituals and reminders of the departed. Variables include whether the death is sudden or expected, whether the grief begins with a gradual loss (as in the case of a partner with Alzheimer's), how the death changes our routines of life, and factors impacted by our particular psychological make-up. Potter also provides suggestions for friends of the bereaved and reminds readers that though a grieving person often feels isolated, "we are all in this together alone." ... (read more)

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The Christian Experience

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Who’s Controlling You? Encountering the Ultimate Connectedness
by Mardi Harjo
Christian Faith Publishing


"A person cannot be saved without first having realized he is lost."

Christian artist and musician Harjo has constructed a thorough, thoughtful treatise focusing on the ideal relationship between human beings and God. She begins with a basic view of that relationship, questioning the reader in clear, rational terms. Do we worship the stars or God who made them? Do we believe that worldly knowledge can save us, or must we look beyond, to an "authoritative Truth that cannot be compromised"? In what do we base our identity? What is our ultimate, utmost purpose? By this means, the author stretches the mind beyond its usual realms of spiritual examination. She is not eclectic but selective in her guidance towards leading a God-centered life. She decries some televangelism as a kind of religious "junk food" and suggests that certain sorts of worship emphasize apparent miracles and wonders rather than their source. She warns that one can be a "nominal" Christian who simply takes in a few spoonsful of religion on a regular basis with the appeal of elaborate rituals, a phenomenon she calls "churchianity." ... (read more)

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Rapid-Fire

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My Book of Revelations: Stories that burst the bubble of believability
by Gerry Burke
iUniverse


"Who represents the typical American psyche more than Homer Simpson?"

Fans of the twisted and quirky will embrace this compendium of tales that range from fan fiction to fractured fairy tales to alternate history, then emerge at the end with undampened enthusiasm for the brilliance that almost masquerades at times as kitsch. With an impressive collection of published novels, short stories, and essays to his credit, Australian humorist Burke has practiced his craft thoroughly before penning this award-winning volume. In addition to the fantasies, magical realism, and the downright weird noir, Burke also presents numerous parodies of popular literary and film characters as well as real-life celebrities. Even the story subtitles, much like the intertitles of silent movies, will leave readers in stitches. ... (read more)

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Liberation From Self

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Art of Forgiveness: A Promise of Peace
by Carolyn CJ Jones
Gate Lady Publishing


"It’s as if someone was saying, because you don’t understand something, have a question, or need a hand, you’re defective for some reason."

Demonstrating the dichotomy between a life lived in two entirely different worlds, Jones holds nothing back in describing her own journey and providing a pathway for others to achieve the same level of peace. At its core, the narrative is an opportunity to experience authentic introspection and tackle heavy topics like anger and resentment head-on. ... (read more)

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Top of His Game

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Book Reviews - US Review of Books
And Throw Away the Skins
by Scott Archer Jones
Fomite


"All things on earth, both good and bad, last only a little while."

Good books have advantages over good friends. Like friends, they can provide diversion, comfort, and the sharing of a plethora of emotions; but unlike friends, you don’t need to take their feelings, needs, or desires into account. You can gobble them up in massive chunks or simply nibble at them now and then, returning only when you decide to do so. Good books never feel slighted, nor do they ever take offense. Yes, good books have their advantages, and Scott Archer Jones writes good books. This is one of them.... (read more)

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Not Said

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

It Happened in Silence
by Karla M. Jay
Book Circle Press


"'Our government has a love affair with its history of chains.'"

Willow Stewart's spirit is as fiery as her curtain of red hair. Hers is the hardscrabble existence of a lifelong Appalachian in the early 1920s. She can't speak and has never made a sound in her fifteen years. Her brother Briar was banished fifteen months ago. Then her newborn brother dies, her mother falls ill enough to do likewise, and she must summon a traveling preacher from town and send a message to Briar inviting him to return, considering the circumstances. ... (read more)

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Circular Paths

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Circle of Life: A Guide for Conscious Living in a World of Chaos
by Frank Natale
Morgan Road


"When we overcome the fear of having nothing, of truly letting go of everything, a trust in life itself manifests the peace we seek."

Published posthumously, Natale's work is a roadmap teaching readers to use love and compassion as armor against limitations like fear, conventional thinking, and numerous other vulnerabilities, ultimately stressing that knowledge on the mental, physical, and especially spiritual level is locked within us. True self-discovery is the best teacher. While the text is imbued with valuable lessons, it is the combination of the author's willful sharing of his own authentic experiences, such as growing up in Brooklyn and an innate ability to simplify complex topics (especially death, energy meditations, and the transformational rites of passage) that makes Natale's work both universally relatable and highly applicable. ... (read more)

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Dark & Sinister

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Insomniac: Short Stories for Long Nights
by Joe Kilgore
Encircle Publications


"The moon was round and pale as a communion wafer, but it had no absolution to offer."

In this dark, psychological collection, readers visit the fringes of terror and the darkest depths of the human psyche. Murdering husbands thrive on revenge regardless of the consequences. An anonymous voice possesses the power to brainwash a nation and forever transform the American landscape. A mysterious woman walks her cat in Paris and reveals a sinister secret to a questioning passerby. Readers also find stories of rogue assassins ready to turn their lives around, only to find that karma has different plans for them, and enter realms in which a person's preference in wines is a measure of their character. By the book's end, readers have traveled to the past, where the laws of the Wild West reign supreme, and independent men are tested not only by the harshness of nature but also the hostility that grows with the slightest provocation between fellow humans. ... (read more)

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Command of Language

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Flower in the Dark: When the truth hides...
by Ewin Genghis


"Like me, over time you will get to know too much. That is the danger. People do not like it. It's an occupational hazard."

Probing into the deepest recesses of the mind uncovers the utter monstrosities that are in an ever-present tug of war with human goodness, virtue, and morality. This madness is on full display through the lens of protagonist Alyssa Brown, a newly minted psychologist. Genghis uses the trio of philosophy, religion, and psychology to explore the depths of the human mind. What ensues is a thrilling and thought-provoking masterpiece, a commentary on what it means to know the dark side of humanity and still live with hope. ... (read more)

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Irreverent, Hysterical

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Why are There Monkeys? (and other questions for God)
by Brooke Jones
Luminare Press


"I’m dead. I’m standing at God’s front door, and I’m talking to God! I would have dropped dead out of pure shock, but inasmuch as I’m already dead, it occurs to me that would be redundant."

From the initial disclaimer to the end of the book, this is an extremely funny book that examines life's vulgarities while focusing on a near-death experience (NDE) the author had as a young woman. She considered herself, as a non-practicing Jew, to be a "Closet Agnostic." When she died for eight minutes, she experienced a feeling of floating, going through a tunnel with white light, and having a very interesting and confusing conversation with God after doing a few too many 'shrooms and heroin. ... (read more)

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Evolution

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Seven Papers: A collection of investigative papers on the creation of the modern brain
by Dan M. Mrejeru
A Terrestrial Mind Publishing


"'...primitivism" may represent only a "blind spot" on the radiative map.'"

This collection of papers tries to scientifically and evolutionarily explain how humans biochemically became the intellectuals they are. Written for those interested in tying together multidisciplinary sciences, this compilation fills a niche that needs filling. ... (read more)

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Full Engagement

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Whispers of the Sidhe: A Zoë Delante Thriller - Book 3
by C. L. Roberts-Huth
Evolved Publishing


"For shame. You should know modern secular references. Thought the sidhe would be big Disney fans with their underlying tension and innuendo."

This novel is a highly imaginative romp through a world made of mediums, necromancers, werewolves, werebears, and naga-snakes. Then there is the sidhe, or faerie folk, who it seems are very ancient, very opulently attired, and given to petty court intrigues amped up to a ten. The heroine is Zoë Delante, a young female medium who "sees" murder victims and, therefore, can help police solve cases. A phone call from a snake-man (like a werewolf but changes into a snake) named Seth causes Zoë to shake off some of the grief that the death of two of her police colleagues some time before. Seth has Zoë fly to Sierra Vista in Arizona to investigate the sudden appearance of her dead father's body. Only her father has been dead for a long time, and his body looks twenty years younger. However, her appearance in Sierra Vista has kicked off an enormous host of paranormal beings intent on killing her. ... (read more)

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Transformation

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Gothica
by Patrick C. DiCarlo
iUniverse


"So it was done. The great king was buried at the bottom of the river. Only a few were allowed to witness the burial. When the dam was released and the prisoners slain, Alaric had been laid to rest, and Athaulf led the march north."

In this epic novel of historical proportions, readers enter the often brutal world of the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Romans. Among these groups are a band of refugees. With their homes decimated, these refugees search across Europe for a new home, and some are even forced to fight in the ranks of the Roman army. Among the refugees is Alaric, a bold and defiant boy who will eventually rise to one of the greatest roles in history—the first king of the Visigoths. Readers also follow the tumultuous histories that ultimately shaped the modern world and are quickly lured into one of the most fascinating periods of history. As the rise of violence and the desire for peace and unification rise, they learn not only the intriguing tale of Alaric's rise to power but also the rarely heard stories from the everyday people who lived behind the scenes of those who ruled. ... (read more)

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Unraveling

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Entanglement: Quantum and Otherwise
by John K. Danenbarger
StormBlock Publishing


"But then the time shovel comes up behind us and cleans out our past where we once belonged, changing and erasing some of our identity."

Though the story takes place in 2044, it spans six decades, commencing with a unique encounter in Provincetown, Massachusetts, between Joe Tink and Beth Sturgess, a sixteen-year-old who has run away from home and makes a living as a prostitute. Progressing through time and the vantage point of multiple characters, Danenbarger's time-bending novel explores the depths of darkness in the human mind, taking readers through the backstories of the pertinent characters in an effort to help audiences understand the experiences and circumstances that create the litany of flawed characters. In the midst of all the darkness, however, is a beacon of hope, highlighted by a seemingly magical and timely note that comes to Joe: "We dream of the better times. If we did not believe this, life would be unbearable." ... (read more)

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Certain Grace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Inspired by the Holy Ghost: Spiritual Poetic Messages Received from Popular Songs
by Aimee Cabo
Inspirational Books Publishing


"Some of us can drown
when treading through a raging sea"

Rarely do the secular and the spiritual so smoothly intertwine. In this collection inspired by radio favorites and cross-genre hits, readers discover a musical world where songs by some high-profile musical stars that many would not associate with the spiritual or the religious encourage an introspective narrator. The narrator looks inward, examines life in correlation with the Bible, and recites verses that reveal personal hardships and unexpected survival. ... (read more)

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True Roots

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Illuminating Family
by Alberto P. Ràfols
Luminare Press


"Catalans living in Guantanamo fiercely protected their cultural identity and ancient heritage."

Not many can trace their family back to the late fourteenth century. The Ràfols-Insenser family will fascinate readers as they learn how the family moved from Catalunya, Spain, to Cuba and the United States. The whole family exemplifies talent, tenacity, and a dash of terrestrial restlessness.

The author considers studies on immigrant successes in general. He notes that audacity, a touch of insecurity, and patience are all components of immigrant success stories. This evokes interest about how this applies to all readers' immigrant relatives. Ràfols himself is an immigrant success story, as a world-class pianist with a doctorate in music. But the story gets even richer as he details his roots. ... (read more)

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Unforgettable Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Eban and the Dolphins
by Carolyn Davis


"I think that he could be a leader—perhaps a liaison between us and humans."

Lost and adrift in the foster care system, Eban retreats to the ocean, where he is drawn to a pod of bottlenose dolphins that he discovers swimming near his coastal town. Initially, he connects to the patterns of sounds coming from the dolphins. As he spends more time with the pod, he begins to see these amazing animals as the family that has eluded him all his life. In a lovely twist on the coming-of-age tale, Eban joins the pod of dolphins and escapes into a world he chooses rather than remain to suffer in the human world that leaves him sad and disconnected. Growing up with the dolphins as his family, Eban becomes a beautiful bridge and healing force for animals and humans. With a deep knowledge of the oceans and the needs of dolphins, Eban is able to channel his experience into environmental activism, and his life becomes an inspirational call to action for all young people. ... (read more)

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Emotionally Charged

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Mothers of Pine Way
by Corrine Ardoin
Black Rose Writing


"Protective of her newfound self, she savored the change, basking in a waking dream. Joy and opportunities were open to her since the discovery of her gifts."

Candelaria is one of many women in this story. She discovers her true self, and the power to thrive, after surviving multiple traumas: the loss of her family's home and parents when she was a child and, later, the loss of her husband as well as her feeling of responsibility for a difficult son. Ultimately, she rejoices in her Mexican and Native-American heritage and a rare ability to tell stories. Those epiphanies, as well as positive relationships with her daughter, Rosa, and a determined woman named Esther, Candelaria's good and bad memories of her past, a spiritual counselor, a connection to her mother that transcends death, and other major transitions help Candelaria to develop a life that is liberated from rage and fear, a life that becomes personally empowering. ... (read more)

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Original Portal Fantasy

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Girl in the Toile Wallpaper
by Mary K. Savarese
Indignor House


"Tyler ran through his everyday physics theories and formulas that he could remember. He understood that his body was made of matter and moved through space and time. In this world, however, everything was flat with only a few colors."

A bright young man named Tyler Charles accompanies his aunt Meg on a trip to Italy when the camp he had planned to attend is closed unexpectedly. Once there, though, he is sucked through a portal into the past and meets a girl named Lyly, who has been trapped in a two-dimensional landscape within the titular wallpaper for over two hundred and fifty years. Lyly explains that she was imprisoned by a magician named Joroku at the behest of a rich noble, the father of the boy to whom she had been engaged. In defiance of her parents, Lyly had fallen in love and run away with a boy named Patrick, who has spent the past couple of centuries in the form of a cat, seeking to be reunited with his beloved. Tyler must find a way to restore the pair and return to his own time. ... (read more)

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Ancient Beliefs in Modern Times

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Wheel of Time: Origin of the Holy Days
by D. W. Kreger
Windham Everitt Publishing


"The whole notion that time is like a wheel was a near universal concept among pre-history people on opposite sides of the planet."

Using what he has learned in his thirty years of travel in the study of archaeological sites around the world, Kreger offers a comprehensive work that traces the origin of many of our holiday traditions to Neolithic beliefs. The author constructs a "Wheel of Time"—"a complete and concise model of all the special days of the year observed by our ancestors and what they might have meant to them." He discusses ancient sites across the world erected to mark the changing of seasons by following the movements of the sun and moon. Such sites as Stonehenge, Kokino Observatory, and Machu Picchu are discussed, as are places in North America. Many illustrations of the wheel which emphasize and explain his premise are included. Kreger also refers to literature, such as the writings of Julius Caesar, the Venerable Bede, and the various legends of King Arthur to further expound upon his conclusions. ... (read more)

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Epic Journey

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Chasing the Darkness
by Cassie Sanchez
Morgan James Publishing


"As Watch Guard soldiers, you are the only ones who can protect the Naturals—capture or restrain, or exterminate. That is your job, your mission."

In this novel of fantastic proportions, readers follow the mysterious Azrael, also known as the Angel of Death. As Azrael learns about his true identity and reckons with his teacher, Drexus, readers join him in a divided world, where all who possess unique gifts must decide whether or not they use their gifts for good or evil. Azrael makes a life-changing and identity-altering decision: he undergoes a procedure that gives him magic. Soon, he finds that the original group who accepted him, the Hunters and the Watch Guard, are now against him. Readers see Azrael develop into something he never imagined he could be—a being with a conscience. Azrael goes on his journey of the self, where the people he once vowed to kill are now his closest friends. ... (read more)

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Box Turtle Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Santa Fe Tom
by Rachel Bate
Mascot Books


"At the end of the song there was a standing ovation. His humble heart was full of successful gratification."

A bashful and humble turtle overcomes the powerful temptation to retreat into his shell and shares a gift he did not know he was capable of giving in this new book by children's author Bate. Santa Fe Tom, a Desert Box Turtle, wakes up one morning in sunny New Mexico, ready to arise from hibernation. He becomes alert quickly as he hears a summons from other desert dwellers Ray Roadrunner, Quincy Quail, Molly Mockingbird, and Paul Prairie dog. It's time for them to get moving, as they are preparing a big birthday surprise for someone who lives in Critter Town. ... (read more)

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Light in Darkness

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rejoice
by Mary Angeline Bell
Omnibook


"I dreamed my winter frosts were at an end."

Opening with elegant photographs that detail the contrast between the darkness and the light, this book immediately transports readers into a meditative realm. As readers travel from poem to short story and photograph to photograph, they enter a world where image and word triptych work together to form a visual and verbal poetic experience. The poem-short story-photograph combination allows readers to choose which experience they desire, and the reader also has the power to decide when the experiences merge. That in itself makes this collection a standout from others. ... (read more)

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Mormon Trials

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Way to the Shining City: A Story of the Early Mormons in Missouri and Nauvoo, Illinois
by Elaine Stienon
AuthorHouse


"He said the time had come when men of high reputation in the sight of God could take extra wives..."

Gabriel Romain is a young doctor among the Mormons who began relocating to the city of "Far West," Missouri, taking refuge after the church's financial speculations in Kirtland, Ohio, had failed. By 1838 there were more than four thousand Mormons in Far West. This novel joins Gabe and his sister Marie, escaped slave Eb, his friend Nathaniel, and others as they re-orient themselves in this new place. Tension builds again between believers and other Missouri citizens, culminating in Governor Boggs's infamous "exterminating order" after mustering 2,500 militia troops to put down the "Mormon rebellion." Joseph and Hyrum Smith negotiated a surrender by October of 1838, and the body of believers once again forfeited their property and rights to gain safe passage to Illinois. Most of the novel concerns Gabriel's wedding to Bethia, who seems to suffer from depression, and his encounter with the rapidly changing circumstances of life in Nauvoo, Illinois. ... (read more)

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Role Reversal

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Under the Divi Tree: True Love Needs No Reason
by Michael Solomon
Book Locker


"'We have come a long way,' she thought. 'It is hard to believe how far we have come. It has been a Cinderella story.'"

Love's ability to transcend the most difficult of circumstances and persist is best exemplified by this heartwarming story of Matthew and Carol Crane. While the story opens up with Matthew on a flight to Aruba, his sixteenth trip there, the entire story is narrated as a flashback to another passenger who happens to be a clinical psychologist. The Cranes' love story is decidedly central to the novel's progression. However, when Matthew falls into a seemingly unbreakable slumber, the exploration of the scientific and metaphysical is equally intriguing. ... (read more)

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Positive Ways

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rejuvenaging: The Art and Science of Growing Older with Enthusiasm
by Dr. Ron Kaiser
The Mental Health Gym


"Taking in the good might actually be considered a sacred obligation as we live longer with generally improved health."

Dr. Ron Kaiser, director of psychology at the Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University, brings his enthusiasm and expertise to bear in this small gem of a self-help book. It can easily be read in one sitting and is a valuable library resource to refer to again and again. Though aimed primarily at an audience of aging readers by an octogenarian author, people of all ages will find inspiration in Kaiser's personal life and his embrace of proactive elements that can easily be applied to strengthening the mastery of maintaining a positive mindset, developing strengths to overcome adversity, and creating authentic joy and a zest for life. ... (read more)

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Russian Dilemma

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Arise, Rossiya: The Return of Russia to World Politics
by Marcus Papadopoulos, Ph.D.
GMBooks


"What is for certain, however, is that Russia has been resurrected and is today actively and successfully re-establishing its Tsarist and Soviet-era influence and power across the international scene."

Readers enter the esoteric world of Russian society, beliefs, and national and international politics in this relevant and insightful book. In an in-depth overview of the Russian people's perceptions of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the author explores the incidences and legislation that have led to Vladimir Putin's current rise to power in modern-day Russia. The book also transports readers through Russia's relationships with Cuba and Serbia, and it carefully examines the fall of the Soviet Union and the consequences of that fall. The author also explains why many modern-day Russians perceive Vladimir Putin as a capable leader. Lastly, the narrative places Russia on the international stage, a place where few readers may think Russia has a great sphere of influence. The book documents Russia's role on this stage in correlation to countries like America and Britain. ... (read more)

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Next Step

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Everybody Pees!
by Justine Avery
Suteki Creative


"Every… BODY… pees. Yes, indeed!"

Young readers discover that bodily functions are not so taboo in a colorful exploration of human life and the natural world. Children learn that everyone from newborn babies to grandparents, and every creature from dogs and cats to seagulls and fish, pees "Every single day. Just like all of us do." Whether it's in toilets, litter boxes, in the sea, high up in the trees, or "underground where nobody sees," this playful book asserts that everyone on the planet pees. After showing young readers that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and even Santa Claus pees, the book ends on a positive note: "Just..like…YOU! And I'm so very proud of you!" ... (read more)

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Touching Self-Help

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Healing from Personal Traumas: New Beginnings
by Claudette Betty
Writers’ Branding


"Wouldn’t it be nice if I could be surrounded by a cocoon to protect myself from all the pain I have to endure daily."

Along life's every corner, Betty has experienced a seemingly never-ending cycle of traumatic events that threaten to completely absorb her essence, her light. While the text itself is a short read, there are numerous points where the reader must simply stop, take a deep breath, and imagine how terrified the author must have been as life dealt her blow after blow. Nevertheless, amidst all the darkness and trauma of the content is embedded a promise of hope and light, that regardless of how difficult one's circumstances get, we can rise to greater heights with the right mindset. t ... (read more)

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Confessions

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Face of God
by Brian Ray Brewer
Goldtouch Press


"But there was something else to those bronzes: although they were ugly and malformed, they showed something more—a tremendous raw talent. Only a genius could have sculpted them."

What does God look like? In this novel, sculptor Martin Drake hasn't had any reason to wonder until a billionaire commissions him to sculpt the face of God for an orphanage and school in Brazil. A New York artist, Martin has grown cynical over years of wining and dining with rich people who buy the art he conceives but doesn't make himself. Father Manoel, the priest in charge of the creche in Brazil, helps Martin face the situation he's made for himself and inspires him to create once again. ... (read more)

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Adoption Challenges

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

No Names to Be Given: A Novel
by Julia Brewer Daily
Admission Press


"Three women walked up the decaying steps of a brick building on Washington Avenue in New Orleans. Once inside the building, they wrapped their arms around each other. Their reunion was bitter sweet."

In this thought-provoking novel, readers enter the lives of three women tied together by one life-changing place, the Magnolia Home Hospital. Though their stories, backgrounds, and upbringings differ greatly in some cases, these three unwed women are pregnant during a time when unwed mothers have few options. As readers encounter a society that forces such women to return to their home lives as though nothing ever happened, they find themselves embroiled in a decades-long battle against the expectations of society. A web of forced secrecy threatens to unravel a Kennedy-esque political family on the American stage. Readers will also find themselves engaged in moral and social conversations that demand reform for one of the most conflicted, misunderstood, and controversial areas of American social and family life: adoption. ... (read more)

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Remembering the Alamo

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Joe’s Alamo Unsung
by Lewis E. Cook
G.F. Publishing


"Victory in battle is often followed by greed. The combination… is dangerous."

Rosana is the lovely and eligible youngest daughter of wealthy plantation owners Phillip and Rosemary Cato. To young schoolteacher William Travis, she seems like the perfect potential wife. Anxious to please his new in-laws, William begins to print a newspaper, a job he hates. But flirtatious Rosana is more experienced with men than any debutante should be. Marriage and motherhood soon bore her, and she has an affair. William must flee after killing a man in a case of self-defense related to Rosana's honor after a dalliance leaves her pregnant for the second time. ... (read more)

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Changing Times

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Wild World
by Peter S. Rush
Prior Manor Press


"If the Vietnam War wasn’t going on, would he be here? How had it come this far so fast? Being sucked into the machine was creating a different Steve."

A young man's journey from intellectual observer to committed participant is explored in this chronicle of America's chaotic times in the early 1970s. As the Vietnam War becomes more involved and less popular, its effects begin to change lives in the United States as well as Southeast Asia. College campuses become hotbeds of dissent and protest. Then, when four students at Kent State are shot and killed by the National Guard, one individual is forced to look within himself to determine whether his approach to life will be simply cerebral or as real as it gets. ... (read more)

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Vietnam Retold

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Bruised Purple Hearts: Ghosts of the USA
by Jerry C. Blanton
Authors Press


"Max and I were confronted with the new war in Vietnam, and we were conflicted."

Twins Matt and Max Conklin are mesmerized by the depictions of the Vietnam War broadcast from their television set in 1963. As in many families during this time, they have vastly different ideas from their World War II veteran father concerning the morality and legality of the war. Seniors in high school, they receive deferments to attend college. Though they are twins and have doubts about the feasibility of a continued American presence in Vietnam, they take very different steps in dealing with their dilemma. Max joins the ROTC to join the military as an officer after college and work as an enlisted journalist. Matt, on the other hand, pursues his interest in the arts and majors in English education. Ever the romantic, Matt marries his college sweetheart, a manipulative, self-centered woman whom he finds less and less intriguing. After college, Max goes to Vietnam as a journalist while Matt takes a draft deferment to teach in an impoverished school district. Though their lives are completely different, they find a common element in their increased dislike of the war and distrust of the government's handling of the conflict and its rhetoric to the American people. ... (read more)

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Practical Advice

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Inclusive Leader: Taking Intentional Action for Justice and Equity
by Dr. Artika R. Tyner
American Bar Association


"The future of leadership focuses on leveraging your ability to influence people from a range of different backgrounds, build multicultural organizational cultures, and unleash vibrant thought processes to achieve a collective vision."

Tyner's reference book serves as a comprehensive primer on the benefits of inclusive leadership, as well as a practical handbook for leaders in any organizational setting aiming to achieve, in real terms, greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. The volume is set into four primary sections, including developing core leadership competencies, team-building strategies, creating an inclusive workplace, and leadership as social justice. Tyner characterizes inclusive leaders as ones "who are aware of their own biases and preferences, and actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making." Here, leaders recognize "diverse talent as a source of competitive advantage" and inspire people to initiate "organizational and individual performance towards a shared vision." Arguing that outdated metaphors and oversimplification of the idea of "diversity" are no longer sufficient, Tyner instead presents a fresh perspective, beginning with assessing one's own leadership story, then offering tools for cultivating diverse talent while addressing such negative factors as implicit bias, privilege, cultural taxation, and micro-aggressions. ... (read more)

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Struggles & Rejoice

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Embracing Autism: One Father’s Fight for his Wonder Boy
by James E. Strode
URLink Print and Media


"When I treat my son as if he were like an adult with sophisticated reasons for what he chooses, I treat him with more respect, I expect him to do more for himself, and he behaves better."

In his eye-opening and thought-provoking memoir about his autistic son, Jimmy, Strode has put an incredible effort in not only inspiring parents but also building a bridge between those who don't have a good understanding of autism. Born in 2007 and diagnosed in 2009 with autism, Jimmy was surrounded by a plethora of resources and love, but that didn't mean raising him would be easy for Strode and his wife. Initially, the shock of his diagnosis was overwhelming, but they were able to move past the initial misconceptions of autism and embrace their son for who he is. Along the way, Strode learned that, more often than not, the advice he received from experts was not as effective as what he figured out worked for Jimmy. It wasn't that expert advice on such matters should be ignored, but rather that it wasn't foolproof. As this narrative proves, parents are often the ones with the expert opinion due to their personal experiences with their offspring and the most qualified to meet their child's needs ... (read more)

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Prayer & Release

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Christian Poems, Prayer & Inspirations
by Patricia Offerman
Writers' Branding


"My child, stand tall in your faith, steadfast and sure, never doubting My Word and what I’m asking of you, my child."

In this vibrant collection of poems and other approaches to her deeply held faith, such as prayers and gentle reminders, writer Offerman examines the many ways that people's relationship with God can affect their lives and the lives of those around them. In some cases, the poet "speaks" in the voice of God, as when one is reminded to "ask and I will supply fresh manna like the morning dew" or prodded with questioning such as "Do you not realize that I am all you need?" More often, Offerman is exploring her own faith in its many guises. She sees herself at times "living in horrible sin" or, in a more mundane mode, wondering how to have joy "when problems haven't changed." Her experience ranges from the exhilaration of sacred moments of feeling God's presence to her recognition of how easy it is to squander one's time when one should instead be glorying in every precious moment of life. ... (read more)

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Deferred Dreams

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Death in the Family
by Mark Pifher
MTP Publishing


"I am writing this to retain a connection between my life and that of my father. This will ensure that he will have a sense of fulfillment and I will have a sense of place."

Pifher, a retired lawyer and world traveler living in Colorado, effectively depicts the story of Tom O’Brien, a journalist who has lost his wife to cancer. The author uses the literary device of a shared narrative penned by a daughter, Katherine (or Katie), who is twenty-one, and her dying father, who is fifty-seven. Hardly a cheerful book, strained family relations emerge as well as a chain of deaths, a murder conviction, the realization of a sure death in prison, unemployment, cerebral palsy, a fifteen-year-old losing her mother, and other tragic events, such as sexual harassment and assault in a congressional office and exposure of hidden secrets and vulnerabilities. ... (read more)

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Coming of Age

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Sister of the Bollywood Bride
by Nandini Bajpai
Little, Brown and Company (for Young Readers/Poppy)


"Think outside the box. 'How about here?' A wild idea was taking hold of me. 'At our house! Tomorrow—before the storm hits hard!'"

Through high school student Padmini "Mini" Kapoor, Bajpai has done a commendable job of capturing the essence of the Indian (Punjabi) culture, from its incredibly high societal expectations for children and often utter disdain for marrying out of "caste" to the bangle-wearing, sindoor-donning new bride and the all-out marathon "dhol-dhamaka" that is the Indian wedding. Though the story centers on Mini's unyielding resolve to organize a Bollywood-esque wedding for her sister, Vinnie, it digs several layers deeper, revolving around the numerous relationships in Mini's orbit. ... (read more)

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Treat All Well

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Animals You’ll Learn to Love
by Benessa Harrison
Xlibris


"'I rescued you and now I can keep you.' She petted and hugged Bully, and gave him affection that was much needed."

At its core, Harrison's children's story is heartwarming, both in the rhythmic nature of the writing and the dazzling illustrations. Split into two parts featuring Lynn and Bully's unexpected union and the story of Thumbelina, the cat who yearns to go outside, the narrative digs deeper than just a stirring story. It touches on many essentials, such as building a strong understanding of animal welfare and ensuring that they are treated with unconditional love and respect. The reason these are so important is because many animals are entirely dependent on humans. ... (read more)

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Unique Genre Offering

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Keepers of the Contingent World
by Cliff Ratza
Lightning Brain Press


"Holy Jesus, the guys are down and out of it. Muffy’s crying and we’re both wrapped in the arms of bad-breath bums. Get ready."

The year is 2157, where the opening narrator declares in an anti-Melville tone, "Please do not call me Electra." From there, life and adventure unfold as Eve, Nari, and Electra (also known as Irani) navigate professional lives and an ever-changing, pandemic-ridden world. Readers follow Eve through a brutal attack that leaves her struggling in silence, fearful of sharing her experience with anyone. The book also heavily examines philosophies important to Western society, including those of philosophers like Kant. Meanwhile, the world grapples with the X-virus, and the heroic crew shuffles through the I-vac development process, which political connections have the power to expedite. By the book's end, readers have traveled through a multitude of evolving situations, where individual needs vie against the collective good, and the power of friendship and loyalty prevail. ... (read more)

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Novel Times

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Journey to Work from Home During COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown – Will It Still Be Relevant After the Pandemic?
by Dr Sulaiman Baputey, Ph.D.
Partridge Publishing Singapore


"Employees who work from home are dramatically more likely to quit than employees who routinely work in the office setting."

The concept of working from home has existed since at least 1973 when that year's oil embargo severely limited automotive travel. From then until 2019, it remained almost exclusively a perk for those high on the corporate ladder. Then the COVID-19 pandemic overtook the world, and, for many of those who didn't lose their jobs outright, working from home became the only option to keep businesses running. It allowed caregivers to stay home with their dependents, for example, but it also led to distraction from work by responsibilities at home and to increased isolation and depression among quarantined or socially distanced workers. Corporate culture has broken down as solitude has fostered feelings of professional isolation and personal loneliness. The home, once a place of respite from office worries, has also become an extension of the workplace. Are improving air quality and cleaner water sufficient incentives to continue this trend when COVID-19 ends? ... (read more)

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Loyalty & Harmony

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Hickory Doc's Tales: The Pack: First Generation
by Linda Harkey
Archway Publishing


"Doc shares a host of humorous stories as a hunting dog, and he narrates what life is like at the kennel."

In this entertaining story for elementary school students, the narrator, a dog named Doc, first impresses the reader with his eccentric pedigree. His "family tree can be traced back to a sapling in Germany." He then charms them with his leadership qualities, adventures, and misadventures in hunting and as a member of a pack of five siblings. Through their cooperation with and care for one another, the German shorthaired pointers, as their breed is called, and a Labrador retriever work together to survive various experiences. Attempted dognapping by a human named Big Bad Carl introduces the adventures. The definition of a family becomes more of an emotional rather than a strictly genealogical group, as the family includes Zeke, the Labrador, with the pointer siblings and their offspring. ... (read more)

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Action-Packed

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Remarkable Story of Willie the Crow: A Hickory Doc's Tale
by Linda Harkey
Archway Publishing


"Suddenly, a young black crow swooped down from the sky and landed on Patch's head."

Willie is a unique young crow. He is learning to fly, but not without some challenges. It is during one of his practice flights that he meets Doc and Patch, two hunting dogs. Crows and dogs do not normally interact, but this is no ordinary crow. He begins spending time with this family of dogs. Patch, still a puppy, loves to chase Willie. They learn about each other as they play. However, Patch’s Uncle Zeke is not thrilled with this new friendship. One day, Patch gets into a dangerous situation. Willie is frightened but jumps into action. He calls her dad and brother to rescue her. They all must work together—even Uncle Zeke— if they are going to save her. ... (read more)

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Instruments Alive

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Saxophone Sits Alone
by Jay C. Peterson
Xlibris


"Together, as a duet, Saxophone and Piano started to play. It was a sound that Saxophone had never heard before. It was… different."

Saxophone is being left out. Woodwind instruments do not want to play with her because she is made of brass and looks different. The brass instruments do not want to play with her because she does not have a brass mouthpiece. In despair, she finds Piano in the corner. Piano is also having a hard time finding someone with whom to play. Although they are different, the two instruments decide to try to play together. They realize that together they make a new sound. As the other instruments hear this new sound, they start partnering with different instruments and discover they can make new sounds too. They soon all realize that each instrument is unique and different and, by joining their differences, none of them need to be alone. They can create distinct sounds together. ... (read more)

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The Eyes Have It

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Snack-Time Mystery: A Book about Your Five Sensse
by Tina Boggs
Xlibris


"He had learned about his five senses in class and decided to use them!"

A story for early learners, this book is not only a nice introduction to the five senses but also a good mystery. It begins with a biblical quote regarding love. The tale then introduces Gil, a little boy who is late to school and misses having a snack with his classmates and teacher. Because he knows he wants to be a detective when he grows up, he decides to use his sleuthing skills to solve the mystery of what the classmates ate for their snacks. He does this by asking his teacher and peers what they tasted, smelled, saw, heard, and felt. The reader is then invited to help Gil figure out what everyone in the class ate. In the end, the questions are answered, and the reader is congratulated for helping to solve the mystery. ... (read more)

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A Masterful Job

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Election 2016: The Great Divide, The Great Debate
by Mark Jabbour
Xlibris


"Clinton is wrong in that regard. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child; it takes a man, a father (with help, of course)."

On the surface, what appears to be a text delving into the perfect storm that was the 2016 presidential election is far more. Weaving in philosophy and psychology, Jabbour delivers an ideal balance of observation, analysis, and research to grab readers' intrigue irrespective of their political affiliations. ... (read more)

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Pleasant Read

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Doc, Willie, and the Pack: Secrets, Gifts, Family
by Linda Harkey
Archway Publishing


"I can eat all the pack's grub before they get in. But first, I'll get my special snack."

The adventures of Willie the Crow and the Lazy Dog Hacienda continue in this collection of short tales between the loyal but stubborn pack run by Doc and the selfish but well-meaning schemes of the near-sighted Willie the Crow. Willie's current obsession is getting in through the dog door, so he can snack on the dog food without being detected. But his plans are constantly foiled by the chaotic and energetic dogs of the pack. Determined to make peace, Willie offers Doc some shiny wrappers as a truce. However, this leads to the dogs finding out about the treats Willie earns from their master by pecking on the fridge. The secret exchange is given away when a local news crew comes out to film Willie's trick and make him a bit of a local celebrity. ... (read more)

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Stripping Away Confusion

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Bible Understanding: Plus, others including the “Circle of Love”
by J. Harvey Hames
iUniverse


"One of the
Hardest things
To do in Life
Is letting go of what
You thought was
Real."

In this simplified yet substantial version of the Bible's virtues, Hames provides the opportunity for people of all walks to experience an awakening by learning to break through limiting beliefs. At its core, the work is a roadmap for humanity to transition from the human physical world to God's spiritual one, an antidote of sorts to humanity's ailments. ... (read more)

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Insightful

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Sermons with Insight
by Roland Zimany
First Edition Design


"When God comes to the world, inequalities are reversed! The foundations are shaken! Nothing is the same again."

A dedicated Lutheran minister offers an enlightening look at scripture and the life of Christians from earliest times to the present day. Zimany opens his book in the section entitled "The Church Year," with an exploration of the meaning of Christmas. He asserts that it isn't sufficient to be and feel friendlier, more giving, at that season. People must be like the grain of wheat described by Jesus: as a dead and useless thing, it could only prosper and bear fruit when it was willing to "give up being what it was" and allow itself to be planted and thenceforth productive. Also included in Zimany's examination of the church year are sermons concerning Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. The author parses all of these time-honored commemorations for intensified meaning that takes into account their history and original purpose. He presents an unusually frank position, holding that many of the treasured stories that Christians cherish are, as in the case of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus, simply "legendary material" meant to promote symbolism, and indeed, to put finer focus on concepts beyond the limited celebration of the birth of Jesus. The star that guided the Magi, for example, can signify "that the Lord of the Universe" has come—a far more powerful message than can be conveyed in the "sentimentality" of many common Christmas routines. ... (read more)

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Real & Gentle

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Prodigal Father
by Forrest Hutter
Westbow Press


"'Grace. That's all it is. It's God's reminder that even now, when nothing makes sense and everything hurts, he's still speaking to us if we listen.'"

Tom Davis is a decent, well-intentioned man of faith plagued by loss, grief, and alcoholism. After the funeral of his son, Eli, Tom begins to tell a retrospective of his life to a woman, Deb, who has attended the service. Tom is questioning his value as a man and whether or not he has been anything but a failure in his relationships with his children, Eli and Jess, and his late wife, Emily, whose death years before during a storm left Tom foundering, questioning, and drinking. ... (read more)

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Emotional Density

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Only You: Deeply from my heart
by Elena
AuthorHouse


"Know you are my joy.
You can make me laugh.
I love my life with you, just enjoy."

Two dozen poems fill the pages of this book of poetry and photography written to create an immediate connection between the poet's heart and those of her readers. Familiar subjects of poetry like unrequited love or the encapsulation of a moment with a young child that one wants to freeze and preserve forever sit alongside topical reflections on global pandemics or loving a soldier called to serve in hostile, faraway lands. Each piece is brief but wastes no time in directly addressing the most jubilant or painful emotions, recording them in a distinct and confident voice. Offering up her personal and private thoughts onto the page for all to read, these poems are intense in their emotions but uplifting in the many avenues for love they illustrate in just one poet's life. ... (read more)

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Contemporary Poetry

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Keeper of Light
by Timothy Brown
Xlibris


"I sit on a throne of bones
Owned by its past."

In self-admissions and deep confessions, readers find an honest voice in every poem of this collection. As readers enter each section of the book, they enter a new conversation with the speaker. In pieces like "A Liberating Death," readers discover the healing power of poetry and the reckoning it can bring to one's past: "For the rhymes in these lines bring light to their crimes." In other poems like "I Stand Before You with Love (Part 3)," the speaker establishes an identity in prayer-like, humble confessions of the heart. Other poems such as "Bleached Equity" make a social and political declaration relevant to modern-day America: "I was appointed by my ancestors, / Anointed with the blood of fallen protestors." ... (read more)

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Adapt & Change

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Human Condition: A Pathway to Peace and Fulfillment
by Bob Yari
AuthorHouse


"One of the greatest powers we hold as individual human beings is the ability to materially affect our own mental state."

People, in general, tend to explain away some of their worst decisions or actions as human nature, human behavior, or with the expression, "I'm only human." In this book, the author describes that humanity is not defined by these instinctual, reflexive choices but rather by the ability to learn, adapt, and define a sense of self and rules to live by through observation, reflection, and contemplation. Chapter by chapter, big existential questions are examined through this lens, whether driven by faith or logic. The key to happiness is so frequently tied with liberty, and a strong case is made in this book that it is through one's own agency that a person can find room for improving their life and making the most of each moment and opportunity granted. ... (read more)

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Frank Portrait

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

"Meeting" Anne Frank: An Anthology
by Tim Whittome, ed.
Xlibris


"The Anne Frank who appears in this anthology will come across as someone with whom you might want to share a lavish picnic..."

Twenty authors share their heartfelt essays of connection with Anne Frank, the young diarist who, for many people, is their first connection with the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust. Compiled by Anne's father from her diary, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, as it is known in English, has become a familiar classic. Anne, who aspired to be a journalist, received a diary on her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942, and almost immediately began to record her thoughts and the details of her family's and other residents' daily lives in "the annex," as they called the three-story apartment over her father's business where they hid during 1942-1944. ... (read more)

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A Life Trajectory

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The View from Kings Point: The Kings Point Creative Writers Club Anthology, 2020
by Edward R. Levenson, Editor
Xlibris


"For a boy growing up in Vicksburg, as I did, it was a Huckleberry Finn way to live."

Memoir, poetry, essay, and story converge in this anthology from a Florida writers group. With multiple selections from each contributing member, the collection works as a body of evocative personal writing and also as the story of a dedicated, structured writing community committed to its craft, the revision process, and the benefits and challenges of committing to and participating in a group. ... (read more)

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A Music Environment

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Parents, Teachers, Home Schools, Classrooms, Preschools: Kindergarten Through the Grades Writing, Music, Composing
by Beverly Marie Nelson
Xlibris


"Along with all the beginning music skills involved are matching, syllabication, and rhyming, linked with reading and writing. Remember there are no mistakes."

The face of music education in this country has changed many times over the years, whether due to budget constraints or standardization of curriculums. The changes are perhaps the most pronounced in the modern era, with more children being homeschooled or engaged in distance learning through computers and broadband internet. The E-Z Notation Through Rhythm Method introduces basic musical concepts like the notes on a scale, basic sheet music, and time signatures using several simple exercises, do-it-yourself instrument creation, and even colorful puppet characters. Children can quickly pick up the fundamentals of music and even songwriting using this simple color-coded and mnemonic system and open a door to understanding music regardless of budget, classroom size, or school structure. Teachers of children of any age can use these lessons as the groundwork for introducing children to the foundations of all music and composition. ... (read more)

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Working Through

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Caught in the Enigmas of the Enchanted Forest
by Ne'zz Amar
Partridge Publishing Singapore


"She then truly believed that friends and family are like worthy treasures."

Two stories of young girls encountering life-changing experiences in the same enchanted forest comprise this book. In the first, a petulant, somewhat spoiled girl named Shaylee (a.k.a. "Miss Grumpy Shaylee") is taught a lesson in maturity via the effects of selfishness on personal perceptions and development and its impact on the larger society. A dwarf entices her into the belief that her dearest wish will come true, but only if Shaylee is able to rid herself of selfishness. Shaylee's subsequent lessons are dramatic and, finally, instructive.... (read more)

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Life Well-Lived

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Joey
by Joe Aliberti
LitPrime Solutions


"I remember asking God why, why now. I had no idea how I was going to raise the kids without Loraine or how I was going to run the business without her."

Aliberti writes torrents of fast-moving, colorful prose. He sprints and soars, propelling the reader through the lives of Italian immigrants in California and then through a mishmash of the families, precarious living situations, odd jobs, schools, illnesses, wheeling and dealing of savings and loans, construction projects, businesses, and sports teams of their firstborn. The author makes one thing perfectly clear: how in all the scramble, the innocence of youth is very easily and early lost. Joey seems to grow up in a couple of sentences, not just a couple of chapters. By the time his wife dies suddenly of an unexpected coronary event, the reader is also in the throes of shock, as Aliberti has so minutely recreated the traumatic experience. ... (read more)

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Mental Health

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Conversations with G: A Physician's Encounter with Heaven
by C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.


"Although I was raised a Methodist and converted to Episcopalian, I have to admit that I have never been at home in a church. I feel the greatest connection with nature and really am a Pantheist and far closer to Buddhism."

This book opens with the unique question, "At what age does one become a mystic?" It then examines why beings such as fairies and angels appear to certain individuals and why mysterious events happen to others. From there, the reflections in this book take a personal, almost confessional turn that incorporates experience and self-reflection. The book then introduces readers to Buddhist and mystic philosophies and the power of Vedic astrology, which redirects the narrator onto a different, unexpected life path. At its core, readers discover Shealy's true intent—to fuse spirituality and medicine. This is because, as the author advocates, "there is no life without the spiritual, mystical component!" In 1984, however, the author's life changed after meeting Caroline Myss, a woman who claims to be able to make diagnoses without knowing the patients. Shealy then met G, and a mystical, spiritual journey subsequently unfolds, inviting readers to follow the light and the guidance these pages have to offer. ... (read more)

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Story Within a Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Adventures of Zippy and Elly: In Rhyme Time
by Peggy Bankston
P.L.B. Playtime Books


"Just as he was starting to enjoy the view, he ran into someone he knew. It was a friend in a hot air balloon, who was whistling a happy tune."

In this cheerful and colorful children's picture book, a little, yellow, striped zebra named Zippy and his best friend, Elly (a blue and polka-dotted elephant) travel along in their imagined adventures in Rhyme Time. One friend makes up a line of a story, and the other responds with a sentence that rhymes. Zippy is excited to teach Elly the game, and soon the two are reciting, on the spot, a story about a "man named Bill" who "lived on the side of a hill." Their silly character "liked to go into town" and liked to "play like a clown." Bankston's picture book is, in actuality, a story within a story. On one level, readers are experiencing the friendship and fun of the rhymed storytelling created by Zippy and Elly. At the same time, that same story they make in unison—about the man named Bill who loved chewing bubble gum—takes on a life of its own. And it is the latter that is sure to engage pre-readers, emerging readers, and early readers alike, focusing on the fun of making sound-alike rhymes. ... (read more)

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The Jersey Scene

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Class A Member: A Story of the Jersey Shore Music Scene
by Gary Allen Shann
Xlibris


"When a star is at last discovered by the right people, who then bring with them the resources necessary for success, the results can be staggering."

The first appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in early 1964 set off a cultural earthquake in America that would reverberate through the rest of the decade. Thousands of young people picked up guitars and started their own bands, dreaming of fame and the glamour of the rock n' roll life. As teenage consumers grew more sophisticated, the late 1960s witnessed an explosion of complex, experimental music from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and Led Zeppelin. The simple love songs of the early British Invasion gave way to baroque pop, psychedelia, and heavy metal. But at the same time, American culture and politics were beginning to fracture under the strain of war, assassinations, and racial division. A rift was forming between teens and their parents over the growing aggression, sexuality, and drug use of rock n' roll. ... (read more)

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Ancestors

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Salupo's Groceries
by Nick and Laurel Salupo
Xlibris


"Carolina and Nicolo had many lengthy talks, late into the morning hours about the prospect of a new life in America."

Growing up in a tiny Sicilian village was idyllic. Carolina loved the spectacular vistas, close-knit community, and the back-breaking work for everyday needs. She never really imagined any other life until she met a tall, mysterious stranger. How peculiar it was to have her perfectly content existence interrupted by a flood of new thoughts and feelings. The young couple began to bond as Nicolo prepared to report to the war front. He promised to return and marry Carolina. ... (read more)

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Dynamic Family

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Time and Curses: A Love for All Seasons
by Loretta Elaine Jones
Xlibris


"I won’t have need to as long as you remember your hands are just as dirty as mine and one pair washes the other pair clean."

From all outside appearances, Joanie is living a glamorous real-life Cinderella story. She grew up poor in South Carolina. After finishing her law degree, she married James. He is the eldest son in a prestigious wealthy family. They have everything—houses, vacations, cars. It soon becomes evident that behind the façade, Joanie and James never loved each other. She is in love with another man: his brother Bobby. While they dive into a lustful affair that creates endless complications to their already messy lives, James occupies himself with building an empire. He fuels his self-destructive streak with nameless women and drugs. ... (read more)

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Scholarship

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Edward’s Xlibris Best
by Edward R. Levenson
Xlibris


"That the 58 pieces I have selected are ‘my best’ is, of course, a subjective personal judgment."

Prolific poet, essayist, and humorist Levenson has selected from each of his previous books published by Xlibris, adding to that amalgamation here. The result is remarkable for its range from pathos and life's ponderous events to irony, puns, and occasional near-slapstick comedy. He boldly asserts that laughter can be found even within Hebrew scripture (the Tanakh), characterizing the Book of Esther, surprisingly, as "the funniest book in the Bible." A lengthy, fair-minded critique of "A Poem for Grieving Friends and Loved Ones," composed by his son Judah, shows that there is always room for wider perspectives within a close-knit family. His brother Rob, daughter Aliza, and wife, Reva, are among the other family contributors, offering poems, reviews, memories, and general commentary. Levenson notes that the 2020 COVID restrictions have brought him closer to Reva, allowing them more time together. ... (read more)

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Work & Home

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Argentina: The Beautiful Land
by Donald L. Lawrence
Xlibris


"We must remember also that ‘nation building’ is forever, and rich traditions must always be protected and passed on from one generation to the next…"

Expatriates who fled from Western Europe to Argentina during World War II—and who also own many shares in their new country's mining industry—attempt to manipulate the Argentine beef business. One long-standing ranch family, the DeCavalieres, stands up to these foreign tycoons, risking their lives to protect the family and Argentina from outside control. With the same tenacious spirit, the next and sixth generation of DeCavalieres confronts neighboring ranchers tempted to follow the expats' greedy example. The seventh generation defeats a gang of insurance scammers. Amidst espionage, kidnapping, and showdowns, romances flourish, and the family prevails. ... (read more)

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Magic of Love

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Porter's Magic Apple Pie
by Debi Moon
Archway Publishing


"'Magic,' said Grandma, 'is the love that you added to make the pie dough.'"

In this depiction of a grandmother's wisdom, a three-year-old boy learns to mix, chop, and bake by the magic of love. Porter wants dessert, so Grandma suggests that he help her make an apple pie to be shared with his parents, using special magic that she will teach him. First, he learns the magic of the stepstool. By climbing up on it, he is suddenly at the right height to help at the kitchen counter. As he helps mix the ingredients, he is encouraged to think about how much he loves his parents and his little sister. That is how much magic he can put into the pie. The magic of cleanliness is found in washing his hands. When it's time to cut the apples, Grandma lets Porter use a sharp knife after warning him of its dangers. Crinkling the dough on top of the pie will seal in the love that Porter has put into his work. The pie even smells magical. Porter is proud to help Grandma deliver the pie to his parents. ... (read more)

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Skillful Writing

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Passionate Spirit
by Sandy Shores
Xlibris


"Oh yes, he’ll come for you just like he did for me. I know he will."

Melanie Chambers was born in South Carolina in the early twentieth century to a wealthy family. She lives in a breathtaking traditional mansion that her ancestors built as they arrived in America. Living in the house is not the only family tradition she keeps alive. The women in her bloodline are said to have a way of "knowing" things. Fortunately, they also kept their thoughts in detailed diaries. Another, more peculiar legacy is the regular presence of a ghost—that of her grandfather (many times removed), Josiah Jackson. He is a cousin of the more famous General Stonewall Jackson. Stranger still is the female relatives' ritual performance of spectrophilia with the ghost. ... (read more)

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Rythmic Words

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

It's a Perfect Day for a Duck
by Paula Abare
Xlibris


"It's a perfect day for a duck. I bought three pink flowers for a buck."

In this very short book for young children, the author notes that she wrote and drew this while awaiting the birth of her grandson. His birth was "truly a perfect day for Grandma!" The story is about having a perfect day with the narrator being a duck who goes on various outings all day long. In a rhyming style, the little duck enjoys listening to the chickens, watching corn being shucked, watching the feed truck be filled, and splashing in the rain with a friend, Huck. The duck enjoys eating corn, playing with a turtle friend, flying around and not getting stuck in traffic, buying flowers, and giving the flowers to a loved one. ... (read more)

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Dream Fulfilled

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

What The Fasnarf?
by Roger Marjadsingh
Xlibris


"Rob ran into the doctor’s office shouting, ‘Doctor, Doctor! I need help! There is a monster that is trying to take everyone I care about!’"

In this children's picture book, the main character is a young boy named Rob who finds himself in a most unusual predicament. He keeps seeing a big, red, furry monster with two horns and sharp claws attempting to attack people in his life. When he tells his school counselor, she sends him to Doctor Ross, who calmly asks him to describe everything. ... (read more)

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A Stint Abroad

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Apapa Six: West Africa From A 60s Perspective
by John Berryman
Balboa Press


"In many ways the fortunes of this man mirror the dealings of Great Britain with its colony of Sierra Leone: from abhorrent bestiality to philanthropic humanity."

Often, knowledge is gained from study and experience from travel. Readers are the fortunate beneficiary of both in this informative memoir. Author Berryman recounts his travels to West Africa as a university student in the mid-1960s, but he doesn't stop with a chronicle alone. He also provides historical background that enriches his tale with both illumination and perspective. ... (read more)

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Quips & Concerns

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Escape from The Front
by Erwin (Erv) Krause
AuthorHouse


"Finally, the boss-man intervened yet again, and order was re-established if you didn’t count some snickering still hanging in the air. Will took advantage of the lull to request that his pants be pulled up."

At first, readers might think they are about to read something along the lines of a Kerouac or Kesey road chronicle. Then one wonders if it's about to turn into a Child or Connelly thriller. By book's end, it's been a bit of both, and readers are equally satisfied and entertained for having spent time with particularly interesting characters and an author they would be happy to revisit. ... (read more)

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Sense of Hope

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rising
by Jackie Ng
Partridge Publishing Singapore


"Can you imagine the feeling of being surrounded by school of fishes of all colours and sizes while swimming at sea?"

In 1998, after some years of enduring increasingly painful headaches gradually accompanied by extreme nausea, thirty-two-year-old author Ng was diagnosed with a brain tumor requiring surgery immediately. Despite being told the surgery had been a success, her recovery included the inability to move any part of her body except for one hand, double vision, and the inability to speak except very slowly. For someone who had graduated from university with honors and navigated a complicated corporate career, these disabilities resulted in reclusiveness and depression. Slowly, Ng began to try to overcome her limitations with exercise. The best motivation came from joining a cadre of disabled people in deep-sea diving and snorkeling. She is now an ardent walker and even helps care for her aging mother. ... (read more)

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Living Well

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Diabetic Journey: Seventy-Nine Years with Type 1 Diabetes
by Donald Clifton Levy
Xlibris


"Ever since that day and for the next fifty-plus years... I’ve loved her. It’s not just me; everyone who meets her is taken by her."

In Levy's autobiography, the reader will get an authentic account of the peaks and valleys that life inevitably brings across one's lifespan. Levy narrates how he battled through measles and mumps at the age of three in 1942. But being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, especially considering that modern medicine was not nearly as advanced in the 1940s, was life-altering. More than anything else, Levy's work is a testament to not allowing any limitation, no matter how severe, to prevent one from living a wholesome life and controlling what one can. ... (read more)

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Two Novellas

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Hidden: Nistar
by Batya Casper
Author Reputation Press


"For weeks at a time, the sky remained gray, threatening, heavy with rain, planes and bombs."

Author Casper has created two novellas in one volume, linked by sentiment and constructed in complex skeins of familial connections. The first one is set in Israel in the 1960s. A little girl is growing up in a caring but dysfunctional family environment. Tikvah lives with grandparents Baruch and Pnina Lazamof. Yet, the reader knows from the outset that Baruch will die by plunging down the stairs after visiting a closed room where a mysterious occupant, Hannah, needs meals delivered outside her door on the upper floor. However, Hannah is never seen. Baruch's death follows that of Pnina, who had been the main caregiver for young Tikvah. Pnina was a spirited woman who had developed a love of the ocean and beaches of their country as an adventurous teen. It was she who told Tikvah about the faces in old family photographs and informed the curious child that her parents were "buried in the desert." Tikvah's life had been unusual but safe, sequestered in a small and dwindling village. Now, bereft of her caring grandparents, Tikvah seeks to find out who Hannah really is. ... (read more)

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A Quick Read

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Noble Tigress
by E.L. Walker
AuthorHouse


"Both men looked at each other, moving closer. The men in the room quickly made a makeshift circle around the duelers."

The king and queen of Figoldia have three sons. The law of the land deems that the next king will be the one most worthy, regardless of age or rank. The three sons make plans to see the kingdom "in disguise." One of the king's most trusted men, Jacob Stone, is entrusted to watch the princes and keep them safe while reporting on their travels. The boys will meet various people on their journey, but none will be more influential to the princes and Jacob than Bella Andrews, daughter of the notoriously cruel Sheriff Andrews. Bella has taken over the job of raising the sheriff's illegitimate twins. One of the princes has designs to make the throne his own through any means necessary. The sheriff sees this as an opportunity, and he offers Bella to the prince as a mistress to earn the prince's favor. ... (read more)

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