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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

Babylon Laid Waste: A Journey in the Twilight of the Idols
by Brigitte Goldstein
Pierredor Books


"My thoughts wandered back to the time, so long ago, it seemed, at Frau Maibach's pension and my discovery of the writer Franz Kafka."

In 1946, Misia Safran, a highly talented, recognized writer and Jewish émigré, receives an alarming letter that claims her grandmother is still alive in a care facility in Berlin. Misia at first questions the reality of returning to a war-ravaged and ideologically divided Germany to save her grandmother, but despite her parents' objections, she connects with a people-smuggling ring and acquires forged identity papers that launch her on a journey into the heart of the defeated Third Reich. However, Misia's travels to Berlin are quickly interrupted. Just as her adventures using the false identity of Beate Hauser begin, Misia finds herself captured by the U.S. military and at the mercy of Major Emil Zweig in a camp for female Nazi war criminals. ... (read more)

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Secret History

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

White Seed: The Untold Story of The Lost Colony of Roanoke
by Paul Clayton
Amazon.com Services


"He was playing his part in all of this, pretending that they could make a go of it in this God-forsaken place."

Maggie Hagger is just one of many passengers leaving England and making her way to Chesapeake, Virginia, in 1587 as one of the future citizens of Sir Walter Raleigh's colonies. Raleigh's Virginia promises the start of a new life to Maggie and others—like the newly appointed Governor John White, as well as Captain Stafford and his soldiers—but first, they must survive the journey to the Americas. Yet Maggie and the other colonists soon learn that settling down in Chesapeake will be much harder, as tensions between the Native American tribes there and prior English settlers still exist. Labeled as one of America's oldest mysteries, the failed colony of Roanoke is at the heart of this novel, which explores the possibilities of what went wrong and what happened to the inhabitants. ... (read more)

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Exploring Self

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Walking Shadow
by Gary Bolick
Unsolicited Press


"He called the desert the perfect place for him because so little moved. Just one big photograph, so it provided the illusion that his life was back to normal."

There is an exceptionally fine line between intense introspection and prolonged navel-gazing. That line is a tightrope author Bolick walks precariously in this tale of one man's unyielding search for enlightenment. Bolick's protagonist desperately wants to come to grips with personal answers to profound questions such as why are we here, what does consciousness really mean, and can we ever truly understand one another or, for that matter, ourselves. The author encases these soul-searching queries in a story that dispenses potential answers much like a time-release capsule—a few now, a bit later, and eventually perhaps enough to ward off congenital melancholia. However, these intermittent answers raise additional questions. Does the patient stand a chance of actually being cured or merely treated? Should his doctor heed the proverb, "Physician, heal thyself"? ... (read more)

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No Average Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Defending Guns
by Steven Prevosto
World Castle Publishing, LLC


"The wind rushing wildly through the trees and over the land is like the spirit of man driving him to feel fulfilled in his pursuits."

In 1878, bad guys are hired by Douglas Pitt, whose goal is to take land surrounding Kansas City for a large cattle ranch. The hirelings include the town's sheriff and deputy, who obey Pitt's orders at whatever cost. Most of the other hirelings are already on wanted posters. The main good guy is Anthony Augustus Peters, a traveling actor from New York and quick-shot gun aficionado. He meets Fox Cloud, a Lakota Sioux and former child captive who knows English. They pose as bounty hunters wearing clever disguises from Anthony's makeup kit. Another important yet unseen character is Anthony's deceased wife, Mary, who inspires his death wish. Dressed in black for the final scene, will Anthony get his death wish as in Hamlet's tragedy? Can this adventure end well? ... (read more)

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To Live Forever

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

They'll Never Die
by Don Calmus
Fulton Books


"'I have died a couple of times, and there's nothing out there but cold dark space.'"

Generally, engineers and other professionals don't morph into successful writers. But Don Calmus, a retired engineer, has writing talent and took the time to study the craft, enabling him to write this stellar novel. Not only should he not "stay in his own lane," he should write a sequel. ... (read more)

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Compulsion & Desire

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

HomoAmerican - The Secret Society
by Michael Dane
Amazon.com Services


"This Secret Society, of which I am a member, is no more visible to me than I am to them."

With the rise of noteworthy novels and biographies from LGBTQ writers such as Paul Lisicky, Noelle Stevenson, Brandon Taylor, and Ocean Vuong, Dane joins the ranks with his hefty, detailed memoir. The reader is invited into Dane’s private, life-long search for identity. With intimate detail, the author reveals a well-traveled, storied life where somewhere along the way he “stopped being a real character,” only recognizing himself in reflections. He examines the painful moments of childhood and his chaotic passage into adulthood. We follow him as he roams among outcasts, immersing himself into an invisible society that is known only to a few. Dane probes the duplexity of visibility and invisibility, like a dancer on stage in front of audiences and an object of desire, yet continuously feeling lonely and invisible. For Dane, he moves through a world of night. He wanders in shadows and “darkness, of passion and pleasure.” ... (read more)

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Manhattan Nexus

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Cooperative Lives
by Patrick Finegan
Two Skates Publishing


"Hanni gathered her belongings and left the church. There was clarity in her mother's pronouncement, 'This is how God repays sinners.'"

Set in recent history, the author's book uses a Manhattan co-op as its nexus—a place where all of its characters reside or have a history of residence. From the outset, a shared address seems to be all that binds these individuals together as they, in true New York City fashion, keep their heads down and worry about their own survival rather than the lives of everyone else in the crowd. However, bonds are revealed in time. Some are being made with each passing day; others have dissolved or been hidden from years before. What starts as a metropolitan microcosm unfolds and grows to encompass stories of fortunes won and lost, international intrigue, and lives that hang in the balance after every small and large decision. ... (read more)

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Musings & Insights

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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Classic Detective

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Tokyo Traffic
by Michael Pronko
Raked Gravel Press


"Hiroshi’s forensic accounting skill was helpful with most homicides, since money could be found at the root of most cases."

This third volume in Pronko’s series about Detective Hiroshi is packed with all the atmosphere and disparate personalities readers have come to expect from his Tokyo-based stories. Pronko takes us through not just the Tokyo of movies and textbooks but one teeming with more underbellies and connections to global corruption than we might otherwise expect. This time our intrepid detective—an amiable accountant—is in pursuit of the criminals who may be responsible for a grisly murder at a porn studio. The key is likely held by a girl from Thailand who was working at the studio when the crime was committed. But now she’s missing, and Detective Hiroshi, who has a personal life as intriguing as his professional one, has his work cut out for him. Combining old-fashioned gumshoeing with modern-day social conventions, Pronko’s lengthy tale is as much a Tokyo detective’s diary as it is a gritty underworld whodunit. ... (read more)

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Awakening

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Lord Chamberlain's Daughter
by Ron Fritsch
Asymmetric Worlds


"That was the story people told about me. I'm glad, of course, it wasn't true."

Lord Chamberlain's daughter, better known as Ophelia, has a new story to tell. In this satisfying remake, Ophelia's fate is markedly different from the one Shakespeare assigned her. In this story, she is alive and well and ready to talk about her childhood friendship with Hamlet and Horatio, palace intrigue, and the warmongering of men in power. Shakespeare's setting remains, and the time and place of the original play are intact, but the plot has gone astray, reimagined and rebranded with a powerful female protagonist driving the action of the familiar story's milestones: the murders and resulting power shifts. The story is structured as a confessional of sorts by Ophelia to Fortinbras, who visits her after he learns that she is alive and living in the countryside. Ophelia begins her story by filling in the details of her adolescence at Elsinore castle, roaming freely with her brother Laertes and pals Hamlet and Horatio, while her father, Polonius, advises Hamlet's father and strategizes a war with Norway. She continues through her own awakening to the suffering of the common people in the war effort, the corruption of the castle, and her own heart's desire. With her motives revealed and her secrets shared, Shakespeare's heartsick, mad Ophelia is transformed into a savvy woman of power and rebellion. ... (read more)

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A Special Time

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Year Winter Came Late
by Michael Larzelere and Susan M. Ward
URLink Print & Media


"With one big gasp, Mr. Sneezy Snew inhaled all the cold air. Then with a snort and a sneeze, he blew a blizzard of snow into a large white sack."

In a town renowned for its love of snow, winter is stolen away one year by a snowman who wishes to keep it all to himself. When winter doesn't arrive, all the adults are baffled with uncertainty, unsure of what they should do, but one brave girl named Lisa steps up, promising to bring winter back. On her journey to save winter, she makes several friends along the way who join her on her quest and give her the confidence to face Mr. Sneezy Snew. Accompanying the rhythmic flow of the narrative are smooth colored pencil illustrations by Catherine Blaski that fit right in to help bring this story to life. ... (read more)

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A Mormon Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Children of a Northern Kingdom: A Story of the Strangite Mormons in Wisconsin and on Beaver Island, Michigan
by Elaine Stienon
AuthorHouse


"Gabriel has only seconds to realize that they must leave everything behind, even the animals and the tools. He blinks. How can he tell the others?"

An unholy trio of bigotry, fear, and religious persecution hovers like a malevolent cloud over this narrative of Mormon settlers in the American Midwest of the1800s. Cruel, oppressive, and violent behavior repeatedly confronts the principal characters in Stienon's historical novel. Yet it is not the monstrous conduct of their persecutors that will remain with you at story's end. Rather, it is the faith, strength, and resolve of the oppressed that will surely leave the most lasting impression. ... (read more)

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Morality Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Loukas and the Game of Chance
by Anthony L. Manna
Mascot Books


"He also bore his father's slightly croooked smile that, were it not for the man's friendly manner, might easliy be mistaken for an angry scowl."

Young Loukas is a member of a poor family. His talent is flute playing, and he attracts the attention of a snake named Lambros, who dances to the music and leaves gold coins each time. This happens often, and Loukas's family makes a transition from poverty to wealth. The snake, who is able to communicate in a soft, raspy voice, asks to be buried after death by Loukas, and Lambros gives explicit instructions for the ritual. ... (read more)

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inspired Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Saint Agnes' Garden
by Diana Lynn Klueh
Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc.


"I figured neither one of us was going to find much happiness in Terre Haute, Indiana. But Momma was hard-headed. That's what Grandmomma Helen liked to say."

Jodie Sealy and her mother live in Biloxi, Mississippi, with her maternal grandmother; however, things are not going well between the two women. So Jodie's mother decides to relocate to Terre Haute, Indiana, a move that Jodie and her grandmother are dead set against. In fact, Jodie has just discovered her desire to become a teaching nun and wishes to pursue this vocation at her current school, Sacred Heart Academy. Jodie admires Sacred Heart's nuns and wants to emulate them as "they were the most perfect ladies . . . never bothered with things that regular women had to worry about, like daddies or husbands who drank too much and acted ugly." But it's a losing battle for Jodie and her grandmother, and she finds herself in a strange new school where she must make new friends. Though some of the students at her new school, St. Agnes, make fun of her because of her strange accent, others like the way she talks. Before long, Jodie finds her way and discovers she likes her new life. ... (read more)

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Quests & Beauty

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Stone for Bread
by Miriam Herin
Livingston Press


"'The issue was never authorship, Rachel. The issue isn't authorship at all.' He turned and stared at her, his eyes bloodshot from the wine. —“What it's about is murder. And not just by the Nazis. I too was complicit.'"

There's quite a mix of character and circumstance in this novel of mystery, history, and soul-searching: a seasoned, enigmatic poet whose heyday was two generations ago; a very pretty and engaging graduate student just starting out her life today; a shadowy Frenchman whose nearly century-old actions have long-lasting consequences. These three contrasting personalities set this very original tale in motion, but the plot grows from there into a dramatic, almost journalistic who-what-where-and-why saga that spans not only generations but also equally disparate scenarios. One scenario involves a quest to discover the true authorship of some famous concentration camp poems. Another is a quest to figure out how we decide who we are and what we need to do with our lives. Indeed, there may be several quests that are part of this story, but Herin weaves them together as a single seamless tale. ... (read more)

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Physical and Emotional Muscle and Bone

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Maggie's Ruse
by Anne Leigh Parrish
Unsolicited Press


"Maggie knew the real reason she had to go was she couldn't stand his not being able to tell them apart in the dark."

This is a contemporary novel of relationships—ostensibly the one between two identical twin sisters who live in New York City. One is intent on becoming a painter, the other an actress. While each has had far less success than they'd like up to this point in their lives, the two twenty-somethings remain fixated on achieving their goals. Fortunately, they are supported by an allowance from wealthy parents that enables them to pursue their ambitions without the need to actually support themselves. ... (read more)

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Fighting Hate

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

One Grey Night It Happened
by Michael Fields
Xlibris


"—“Okay, then,' Jeremiah said. "But I have to tell you I've never eaten with a black person before. —“Will that give you indigestion?' Lucas asked."

Fields' knack for frenetic, fast-paced storytelling is featured prominently: a school shooting upends all sense of normalcy at Robert E. Lee Academy, thrusting star track athlete Lucas Bradshaw into a world of personal chaos. Set in the early 1980s, Fields finds a way to incorporate a number of pertinent themes in modern times, from school safety to educational literacy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nevertheless, no topic is more compelling than the racial tension and law-enforcement abuses of power that are exhibited by a few rogue cops. ... (read more)

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Time Warp

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Shock Wave
by Florian Louisoder
Starry Night Publishing


"It wasn't the future that took root in our present that day, it was the past..."

Forty-year-old deep-sea diver Scott DeSantis is en route to repair a problem with a wellhead deep in the Gulf of Mexico when he hears on the radio that Cuba is planning an underwater detonation of an atomic bomb. Scott's ex-wife, Linda, a nuclear physicist for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is taxed with accessing the fallout from the incident. Suddenly, Linda is thrown into an encounter with an old nemesis, and Scott discovers that the woman to whom he was once married, the mother of his two children, is not the person he thought her to be. Linda finds that the incident has opened a vortex which she thought had long been closed, and she and Scott must travel far into a past with which Linda is very familiar in order to save their children from being caught in a time warp from which they may never return. Their lives are now on a trajectory that will change the world forever. ... (read more)

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Get It Done

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done
by Charlie Gilkey
Sounds True


"You have to lose yourself in the project only to find you're a different person on the other side, for as we create, we're creating ourselves."

When striving toward achievement with any sort of project or goal, most are all too familiar with getting sidetracked or lost along the way. Whether it be dwindling motivation, a lack of time to focus on the things that matter to you because of family and work obligations, or procrastination, Gilkey provides a detailed plan of getting the gears into motion and finishing the projects you've started—more specifically what he calls your "best work." This concept of best work is a powerful one because it highlights that the projects you want to do are the ones that will fill you with meaning and purpose in life. Your best work isn't just a task to check off on a list once complete, but a means for you to thrive. ... (read more)

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Time Out of Time

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Shock Wave 2: The Book of Vallora
by Florian Louisoder
Amazon.com


"We see time as this big thing that spans eternity and we forget to appreciate and value the moment."

In this second book in the author's series, time travelers Scott and Linda DeSantis return from Atlantis to their own time; however, the world they find is a much different place than the one they left. History has rendered an alternate reality in which America, defeated by Germany in the Second World War, is now a totalitarian nation. Technology is used to keep watch and exert control over the American public. For Scott and Linda, this new world in which they have arrived, one in which their own children are unrecognizable to them, is one of danger. They are immediately hunted by old enemies who are now in power and find themselves trying to escape to safety, all while being under surveillance by this new and frightening government. The two have one goal: to stay alive long enough for the secrets held in the Book of Vallora to lead them back to their real home. ... (read more)

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Master Storytelling

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Strongman and the Mermaid
by Kathleen Shoop
Amazon.com


"Lukasz pushed his friend's hand away, thinking of the mermaid he'd been dreaming of for months. If only a real woman came to him as often."

Beginning in present-day Donora, Pennsylvania, the reader is introduced to Patryk Rusek and learns of a dust-ridden, large, coveted book which apparently holds not only a hodgepodge-like history of the town of Donora but also perhaps some of its secrets. Patryk, in bits and starts, shares the story with his grandson, and from there an incredible novel begins. Shoop weaves an extraordinary, expansive narrative, alternating between the small village of Myscowa, Poland, and 1910 Donora, USA. In its stories, the author explores the lives of Lukasz Musial and Mary Lancos, respectively. ... (read more)

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Plea for Belief

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Why Believe It? Reasons and Evidence for the Faith
by John Huffman
Book-Art Press Solutions


"The evidence from science is not opposed to the Christian worldview of the Creation of the universe and life but rather should encourage and strengthen our faith..."

This work argues in a systematic way for the truth of the Christian faith, which includes the analysis of scientific, historical, and linguistic aspects. The first few chapters address the inadequacies of explaining creation through a purely scientific lens, yet rationalizes that the truths of science do not negate those of Christian creation theory. Huffman continues his argument in favor of Christian belief through an exploration of early historical apologetics, such as the writings by Clement of Alexandria (AD 185-254) and Justin Martyr (AD 150-195). The majority of the book is dedicated to an examination of the scriptures and a look at various translations and interpretations throughout the years, with a specific emphasis on the morphology and meanings of words in Greek and Latin. Finally, Huffman includes a bibliography and an index. ... (read more)

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Fairness & Healing

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Mary's Prayer
by Mary McGuinness
Book-Art Press Solutions


"I found many truths about myself which I was forced to confront, and I kept the faith throughout this experience."

Though author McGuinness had what seemed to be a happy, even idyllic childhood—growing up in a pleasant town in central Scotland with many advantages, such as attending Glasgow University and later attaining an accountancy diploma at Heriot-Watt University—she had a significant mental breakdown during her working years. She began to struggle with heavy bouts of depression. The medications that were standard at the time caused further complications, so the recurrences continued for fourteen agonizing years. During that time, though supported by close family, she often experienced mental and physical suffering and financial setbacks. She looked for alternative solutions, finding particular comfort in a visit to the shrine at Lourdes, where she saw people with problems like her own evincing an optimism she could share, and which gave her peace. Music, especially the songs of John Lennon, was inspirational and still provides a sense of hope as she enters a life of greatly enhanced choices. She now anticipates a new career in the field of psychology. ... (read more)

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Future Dystopia

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Black Market News
by Roman S. Koenig
Mercury Current


"Instead of the perfect smiles, handshakes, and self-aggrandizing compliments the purest of dictators would love, black market news shared the real stories, off the grid and out of eState's reach."

Though this thought-provoking novel follows several points of view, Quinn Kellerman is the protagonist. As a reporter who, before nearly losing his life, was indifferent to the rising power of eState, Quinn begins to live a double life in the aftermath. By day he works for the biggest news network under eState's thumb, and by night he writes for a black market newspaper with the intent to share real stories. ... (read more)

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Enter the Horse

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Trials of the Cave People: And How Dragons Came to Be
by R.L. Greenwood
Lettra Press


"Each night, the cave people, known as "Cavers" lit a big fire in the centre of the cave to cook their supper. After supper, they gathered around the fire to talk about what happened in the day and tell stories."

A series of short, light-hearted tales about the adventures of our ancestors, this book introduces us to a small tribe of cavemen, delighting in the awe-inspiring world around them. From odd newcomers to mysterious creatures, they encounter adventure and friendship at every turn. One of these new friends is a character named Stinkfoot—a massive creature, both furry and friendly, who is welcomed into the tribe of the Cavers... after a thorough bath, of course. Overjoyed with his newfound companions, and grateful for an end to his loneliness, Stinkfoot saves the Cavers from a Purple People Eater, as well as a dangerous crop of giant snapdragons who, in Greenwood’s telling, can deliver painful bites to the unsuspecting passerby. ... (read more)

 

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Journey to God

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Kate in the Land of Myths and Wonders: An Epic Fantasy Adventure
by J.P.H. Tan
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


"How splendid it was! One could not really tell heaven from earth, since they were rolled together as one. It was truly the most amazing, remarkable place Kate had ever come across."

Fifteen-year-old Kate literally gets swept up in a flood of biblical proportions in Tan's strange, twisty Alice in Wonderland-like tale. Kate lives under the strict guidance of her wealthy grandmother and a reverence for God, which Kate wrestles with at the start of the novel. On a visit to Chicago to see her best friend, Gus, the waters inexplicably swell and flood the city. The world as Kate knows it disappears as she is somehow transported beyond its borders to alternate realms, both beautiful and frightening. Here, she encounters celestial spheres, mysterious forests, and strange beasts. ... (read more)

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Breaking Free

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Living in Fear Away from My Rapist
by Dustina Respecki
Page Publishing


"My mind was spinning out of control more and more each day. I had to find a way to make him stop."

A woman in the midst of trying to stabilize her life finds fear and mental torment despite her best intentions. Respecki met a man named Mark while working at a pizza place in 1999. He was a large, seemingly friendly fellow employee who began obsessively staring at her, making excuses to chat, almost stalking her at times. She did her best to discourage him, involved at the time in a separation, divorce, and the problems of being a single mother. Finally, Mark blatantly asked her to have sex with him. When she refused, he persisted, starting with phone calls that became an almost daily occurrence. Her feelings of fear increased, yet she felt trapped: "he had my emotions riled up like a fish on a line." Catching her at home alone, he finally intruded and violently raped her. ... (read more)

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Suffering Loneliness

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Surrounded by Others and Yet So Alone: A Lawyer's Case Stories of Love, Loneliness, and Litigation
by J. W. Freiberg
Philia Books


"Loneliness, I realized, is the sensation of inadequate connections to others, just as hunger is the sensation of inadequate nourishment and thirst is the sensation of inadequate hydration."

Consisting of five stories taken from the author’s work as a lawyer, this book offers a study in the causes of subjective chronic loneliness in those whose connections with other people “fail to provide the security, nurturing, and soothing care that others enjoy from their healthy connective networks.” In looking over his many years of case studies, the author narrows down the types of misconnections experienced by the chronically lonely into five categories: “Tenuous Connections,” in which the connections between clients are uncertain or unreliable; “One-Way Connections”—for example, unrequited love; “Fraudulent Connections,” wherein one’s relationship is based on deception and manipulation; “Obstructed Connections,” where one is prevented from being emotionally available; and “Dangerous Connections,” in which the relationship can cause devastating emotional and physical harm. For each of these misconnections, Freiberg includes a case study from one of his past clients to illustrate how people who are in relationships with others may still suffer loneliness because of the failure of their relationships to offer healthy connections. ... (read more)

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Creativity for Kids

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Think Outside the Box
by Justine Avery
Suteki Creative


"In a world filled with rules, where there are so many different opinions, when you need to find your own way.... just think outside the box."

This inspiring and instructive picture book affirms and validates independent thinking by giving children permission to think in their own unique ways about things encountered in the world. Through examples, explanations, and illustrations, the message of the book comes through with clarity and power. Each page is packed with scenes that bring to life what it means to think outside the box, a sophisticated concept that is made clear with fun analogies and similes. The figurative language helps to illuminate out-of-the-box thinking for young children. Avery tells children it is like coloring outside the lines on purpose, eating an ice cream cone from the bottom up, or taking things apart to make something new. By the last page, children's minds will be opened to possibilities and the wonder of their thinking abilities. ... (read more)

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A Smart & Savvy Woman

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Revenge in Barcelona: A Nikki Garcia Thriller
by Kathryn Lane
Tortuga Publishing


"I had unfinished business with Ms. GarciaÄ‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă‚Â¦"

What begins as a romantic getaway to Barcelona for Nikki Garcia and her fiance soon turns into a fight for her life with her enemies closing in fast to settle past scores. Nikki is no stranger to threats on her life and to using her wits to confront danger, so she is well-matched against the terrorists in this high-octane thriller. With international sites and multicultural flair, readers will be transported into a world of beauty and intrigue. From Morocco to the intimate corners of Barcelona, the suspense builds as Nikki closes in on villains and assassins devoted to their sinister mission. Deftly plotted with close calls, near escapes, and murderous plans, this ride never lets up from beginning to satisfying end. ... (read more)

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Weighty Tension

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Young Heroes: Stories Based on Real Fires and Real People, from the Days of Horse-Drawn Fire Apparatus
by Paul Hashagen
Fire Books New York


"Feeling his way in the blackness, the heat stinging his ears and face, he searched by feel until he found a six-year-old boy on the floor."

The five stories in Hashagen's book chronicle fighting large fires in New York between 1881 and 1912. The stories are based on historical accounts of real fires and those who fought them or were caught in them. Each narrative focuses on a young person who acted heroically in the situation and assisted the firefighters and/or those trapped by the fire. In addition, the reader is introduced to a few key members of the fire crews working the featured fire. The character's backstories humanize those risking lives in the blazes, and the action and harrowing circumstances create weighty tension. Also, as a retired New York firefighter, Hashagen's descriptions of the fires, the circumstances surrounding their spread, and the difficulties fighting them are genuinely authentic. ... (read more)

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Light, Fun Mystery

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Orphan Rock
by Bronwyn Rodden
Amazon.com Services


"And for a second, as a moth passed nearby, its wings dusted angelic white glistening in the harsh light, he felt a tiny shaft of hope. Then nothing."

In a mystery regarding the murder of Jack Spandel, a local real estate agent, the book takes us through a variety of potential culprits related to Spandel's death. He had offended others in a variety of ways, both personally and professionally. His body was found close to a high-class restaurant and a local park that served as a gay cruising area, although he supposedly wasn't gay. Along with the possibility of a secret deal regarding mines in the area, a problematic marriage, a difficult teenager, affairs, and the question regarding a Chinese co-worker and the death of another person, Jack's murder is a difficult case. Detective Ros Gordon and others are tasked with finding the murderer, all while dealing with Gordon's probationary status and past and present relationships. And how does her former relationship with another cop influence her work and affect her case? ... (read more)

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Friendship & Power

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Sidekick
by Jessica Bridenstine
Silver Leaf Books


"When I sat at the piano bench I felt as though I disappeared into the wood. Accompaniment. Unnoticed. I could handle accompaniment, everyone would be watching Ashley."

In a fast-paced, easy-to-read novel, Bridenstine unfolds a superhero narrative that follows best friends Melissa and Ashley. The story is told from a dual first-person point of view, switching between both characters every chapter. Because both characters are well-rounded, Bridenstine accomplishes distinguishing their voices when jumping between their two narrations. ... (read more)

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Transition to Chapter Books

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Doc's Dog Days: A Hickory Doc's Activity Book
by Linda Harkey


"'Doc, you can learn a lot about a book by eating its binding.'"

Linda Harkey, a former educator and museum docent as well as a hunting dog enthusiast, writes children's books about the beloved and oft-visited topic of canine capers, making the old new again by featuring a specific breed close to her heart—German short-haired pointers. In this third book of her series, the adorable black-and-white illustrations by Mike Minick are begging to be colored and doodled upon with markers, pencils, or crayons, making this both an educational and a fun diversion likely to be appreciated by kids and their caregivers, parents, and teachers. ... (read more)

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Unique Life

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

From Tehran to the Land of the Free: Struggles of an Iranian to Live Up to Her Potential
by Mitra Thompson
AuthorsPress


"Once again we were faced with situations that were out of our control and unpredictable."

For ages, humanity has repeatedly found original ways of exhibiting divisive behaviors among itself. The most ancient of these methods, undoubtedly, is faith. Thompson's memoir speaks for the millions that have and continue to endure persecution and find themselves encountering barriers to living a life of abundance and opportunity. Many readers will experience a hint of recognition throughout Thompson's journey, while those foreign to such will be startled at this in-depth glimpse into the life of an Iranian woman whose resolute nature prevented her from becoming another statistic. ... (read more)

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Mapping the Letter World

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Literary Geography: An Encyclopedia of Real and Imagined Settings
by Lynn Marie Houston, Editor
Greenwood


"Because of the setting and story of the play, outside spaces are associated with the violence of toxic masculinity, whereas romantic love is confined to mostly secret, indoor spaces: the Friar's cell, the bedroom, and the tomb."

It seems a foregone conclusion to state that every book, play, and poem ever written, whether obvious or not or intended or not, occurs in a certain place at a certain time. Often when a literary scholar assembles other literary scholars to discuss famous works, what they talk about more than anything else is plot and character. But educator and author Houston gathered two dozen of her well-versed contemporaries to reflect on something quite different: place and setting. Just how do specific locations and time periods affect the way we react to a story, how we feel about the individuals between the covers, or the lessons we're left with once we close the cover? More than a hundred notable works—from Catcher in the Rye and Death of a Salesman to The Hunger Games and Romeo and Juliet—are given such treatment in this intriguing volume. ... (read more)

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Stunning Historic View

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

General in Command: The Life of Major General John B. Anderson
by Michael M. Van Ness
KÄ‚â€œĂ‚Â§ehlerbooks


"While he had been abroad, he dreamed of home and now at home, he held firmly to the relationships formed abroad."

Biographies, by nature, are a peek into an individual's lifespan and contributions to society. In this book, however, Van Ness successfully manages to not only give a glimpse of Major General Anderson's life but also delivers insight from a unique vantage point into many of the most pivotal moments in American history. At the same time, this work is genuinely made special and personal by the continuous efforts of the author, Anderson's grandson, to both learn and chronicle his grandfather's gargantuan impact. In his quest to fully unearth the life of a remarkable general, Van Ness combines his family knowledge with relentless research, leaving no stones unturned in his mission to shed light on one of the principal figures of the 20th century. ... (read more)

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Beautiful, Contemplative Verse

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Capture Theory
by Joy Gaines-Friedler
Kelsay Books


"Forgiveness, I found you
abandoned in those old apple trees
unable to bear fruit in such tangled branches."

In Zen-like narratives that balance human existence, physical and spiritual longings, and emotional turmoil with natural settings and characters like quaint orchards and bothersome flies, sparsely detailed friends, and freedom-loving wild horses, the poems in this collection weave an intimate story of living, coping, loss, disease, and survival. In pieces such as "Capture Theory I" and "Lack of Memory Floor," readers encounter a narrator struggling to understand a mother's dementia-induced decline while, in "Capture Theory II," reconciling with a concept that most never meet—forgiveness. "Last Call" grapples with the beautiful bitterness involved in and the intimate complications of being present during another's passing, and "The Politics of Horses" portrays the freewill of humans with that of the natural world. Meanwhile, poignant poems such as "Over the Rainbow" reckon with a loss that is total in one sense but not in another. ... (read more)

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Coming of Age Through History

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Born Crazy
by Bonnie Sanford Collins Bostrom
The Canelo Project


"The journey requires of us the ability to leap into darkness, play tag with time and break our own hearts."

Bostrom's childhood in the 1940s on a remote ranch in northeastern New Mexico gives her a unique grasp of the rhythms of the natural world, and the simple life oriented toward family and community that shaped her requires a great deal of stamina, resolve, and patience. Bostrom reveals much about the matriarchs of both sides of her family as well as paying homage to the patriarchs, offering a window into the ongoing manifestation of the divine feminine that arises in all cultures. The title seems to nod not only to the oddities and imperfections of Bostrom's life but to the crazy wisdom that is inherent in the very act of living. She humorously points out in one essay that sperm are both male and female, a simple but revelatory fact not acknowledged in what many see as the patriarchal slant of American culture. ... (read more)

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A Fresh, Interesting World

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Matilda Seer
by M. D. Allen
Pixerati


"You possess the power to break the hold that dark magic has on your mind by focusing on what you have, and not on what you lack."

Seven young people have been abandoned by society, shuffled from foster home to foster home and left without hope of a better life. All seven long for something better, and all seven get their wish when they are transported unexpectedly to a new world known as the Inner Realm. Here they are given new names and, with them, new powers. For example, there is Matilda, who has visions of the future, Ethan, who is blessed with extraordinary strength, and Kari, who can control the winds. Known as the Chosen, these seven frightened, uncertain teenagers suddenly find themselves entrusted with the protection of this magical new realm from vicious dark forces. However, to fulfill their destiny, they will need more than magical powers; they will need to overcome their differences and haunted pasts and learn to have faith in one another and themselves. ... (read more)

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Noteworthy Opus

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Roots of Jewish Consciousness, Volume One: Revelation and Apocalypse
by Erich Neumann
Routledge


"...We need to review the great problem of the ancient Jew, solely to establish how it persists as the inner problem for the modern Jew."

Noted psychologist and philosopher Erich Neumann spent some years composing this work, which deals with the development of Jews as individuals and of Judaism collectively, against a backdrop of the rise and accession of power of Nazism in his birth country. A Zionist who emigrated with his family to Tel Aviv in the early 1930s, Neumann was still crucially affected by the happenings in Germany. His observations were colored by those events and also by his close association with Carl Jung and the psychology of consciousness and creativity. ... (read more)

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Just Beyond the Curve

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Accident
by Caroline Maun
Alice Greene & Co.


"force, direction, impact, skid.
They cut those leathers off;"

This vibrant and intelligent collection of poems tells the story of the poet's experience with nearly losing her significant other to the tragedy of a motorcycle accident. And yet, the author of these seventeen tender poems has made an excellent literary choice by not precisely spelling out the sequence of events as they happened. Rather, these are more like thought-pieces—some reflecting on loss and bodily harm, others on non-motorcycle memories shared between the two companions. Others focus on nature, both fauna and flora. ... (read more)

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Engaging & Entertaining

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Nila's Babies
by Jac Simensen
Cosmic Egg Books


"Why, in the name of God, didn't you get us away from your mother's vile superstitions? How could you let her disfigure your child?"

Contemporary Florida is the setting for this novel that slyly morphs from a budding romance into a mysterious occult chronicle. Gordon is a widowed father of twins who becomes increasingly fascinated with Nila, the woman he's hired to serve as his girls' nanny. As the adults' relationship grows, so too does a vile malignancy committed to claiming the very souls of the precious toddlers. While this is indeed a modern story of suspense, it is simultaneously a trek through an alternate theory of religion and creation that challenges more traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs with those of African Ashanti legend. As these dual storylines unwind, mere humans are forced to come face to face with immortals bent on shanghaiing innocents as vessels for their never-ending journey. Can love endure when surrounded by such malevolent sources? Can children maintain their innocence when set upon by such evil powers? ... (read more)

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Seamless Storytelling

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

What Survives
by Phyllis M Skoy
IPBooks


"Why would human beings do such a thing to each other when nature was destructive enough?"

This quiet but powerful literary novel is the story of what remains when everything we cherish is ripped asunder. Adalet, a young Turkish woman, is negotiating familial and cultural expectations as an educated Muslim wife and newly expectant mother when the Avanos earthquake of November 1999 strikes. In a fateful moment, she loses both her parents, her unborn child, her physical welfare, and, ultimately, her husband, as he soon wanders off with a more glamourous lover. Adalet's journey toward the restoration of her fragmented life begins in the village of Avanos, where she has been cast aside by her ex-husband's family. She creates a new family bond with a blind matriarch, Fatma, and her rebellious multicultural niece, Meryem, just six years her junior. Adalet's ravaged confidence soars by gradual degrees as she moves to Istanbul to be Meryam's guardian at art school. Adalet's tentative though positive relationship with an American professor ultimately leads to an epiphany amidst the rubble of the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001. ... (read more)

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What a Dog Knows

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Caleb: A Christian Dog, Books 1, 2, 3
by Diann Ross Woodbury
Stratton Press


"Caleb was a hero. He has always been my hero but now he is the town hero."

A handicapped woman has the good fortune to adopt a big, friendly, sensitive dog—not just a pet, but more like a guardian angel. When writer Woodbury brings home a striped Boxer-mix canine from the animal shelter, she soon realizes he can "speak" in English. Relying often on Microsoft phone assistance to compose her account, Woodbury, a born-again Christian, finds that Caleb can somehow communicate with the many computer technicians she speaks to in India and the Philippines. Together the two tell others about the love of Jesus, sometimes making converts. Moreover, the remarkable animal assists the police in finding a ring of bomb makers and later in attacking and disarming a wanted armed robber. Throughout this series, Caleb provides the author with much inspiration and motivation to watch after her health and get her books completed. ... (read more)

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Inflammation

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Trafficking: How Chronic Inflammation Sabotages the Immune Arsenal and Poisons the Interstitial Space of End Organs
by Robert Buckingham, MD, FACP
LitFire Publishing


"Tackling chronic inflammation early and head-on does not require a lot of out of pocket money but rather a different mindset about lifestyle choice."

This third volume of a trilogy by a California internist explores the chronic inflammation at the root of most "disease processes, pain, fatigue, and aging." This book doesn't always clarify medical and scientific terminology as completely as it could, but it will be worth the effort to engage with the scientific discourse to understand further the processes that lead to chronic disease. Medical professionals seeking enlightenment on the topic will greatly appreciate the thorough and exhaustive scientific explanations contained in the book. ... (read more)

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The Real Deal

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Agent
by Marsha Roberts
Easy Riter Press


"She could tell it took all of his energy not to touch her. His eyes bulged in disbelief as the reality sank in. It had all been just for fun."

In this wickedly appetizing novel, tasty character traits are served with aplomb. Those particularly delicious qualities of deceit and betrayal virtually ooze from its pages like overstuffed cucumber and caviar canapĂ©s. Virtuous protagonists are set delightfully aside in favor of conniving con artists who ply their trade with copious attention to detail and a seemingly total lack of guilt—well, two out of three of them anyway. ... (read more)

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Open Thought

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Becoming Buddha
by Corey Croft
Fly Pelican Press


"We discussed anxieties and borderline complexÄ‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă‚Â¦ addressing our fears head-on."

The narrator here (who may or not be the author himself) is living a "painfully average" existence. Meanwhile, Alex, his best friend, believes in him. He knows he has the ability to open up and, in fact, achieve anything which he desires in life. Described by Croft as cool, mysterious, and handsome, Alex tends to party hard and live in the fast lane. However, this does not stop him from very much loving his best friend. Steeped in depression and anxiety, his friend is lost in persistent negative thinking patterns. This overwhelms his psyche, as he drags himself reluctantly through one day of utter banality to the next. "Life sucks," he believes, and it will never get any better. ... (read more)

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Dangerous Liaisons

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Emergency Powers
by James McCrone


"Was this the final move of the conspiracy she had chased into a blind alley?"

Readers will recognize some themes plucked from reality in this timely third volume of the Imogen Trager thriller series. The story explodes from the starting gate with the startling death by natural causes of newly-elected President Diane Redmond. Redmond's successor, Vice President Robert Moore, publicly pledges to make no major deviation from her political platform, but the administration takes on a new direction behind the scenes. Moore's vice president finds himself locked out of the president's circle and their back-channel meetings. Though his party controls House and Senate, Moore seems shielded by the Department of Justice under a newly appointed Attorney General. ... (read more)

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Real Heaven

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Heaven, Indiana
by Jan Maher
Dog Hollow Press


"He took her hands in his and they stood there, weeping with each other; two old people with more sorrow than anyone ought rightly have to bear."

Small town America has been the canvas for countless artists over the years who create art with words rather than paint. In the theatre, Thornton Wilder's Our Town gave audiences a vision of an autonomous village from the inside out. On the page, then later on the screen, Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show and Carson McCullers' The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter cut into the very sinew of lives lived within self-inflicted boundaries. Echoes from those works and more reverberate through author Maher's chronicle of a town and its denizens in the Midwest. Hers is a tale, however, that while spiced with the flavor of classics, feels notably original in its depiction of the events and individuals who make up her setting. ... (read more)

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Ideal Women

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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Escaping the Flame

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Summer of Fire: Book 1 of the Yellowstone Series
by Linda Jacobs
Goodreads Press


"She was bound to this land, by blood and by a book that reached to her through the years."

Inspired by the devastating fires that ravaged Yellowstone in 1988, the narrative delivers a hauntingly precise portrayal of fire—its unpredictability, and its power. Best characterized by one of the central characters, park ranger and biologist Dr. Steve Haywood, the destruction is, in many ways, an opportunity for rebirth and overcoming adversity. Revolving around firefighter Clare Chance, this rebirth is not just for nature but also for Clare and the other characters that are constantly juggling their passion for duty with personal scars. Jacobs' work captures both the fickle nature of the fires and the human spirit and emotions of the frontline workers who, despite knowing their efforts will be rendered helpless against the inferno, continue to battle. ... (read more)

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Compassion & Suffering

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Notes to the Mental Hospital Timekeeper
by Tim Mayo
Kelsay Books


"I am the tooth fairy, come to collect the ivory loss
of the unloved, the impressions they make. Ooh,
what shall I leave under their pillows tonight?"

This chapbook of 16 poems is easily read. To study the pieces, though, one needs to dive headfirst into such wisdom to understand what it is like for people with mental illnesses and what it is like for those who work with them. From the basics of a card game to that of a psychotic universe and the elephant in the room, we are given a broad expanse into the collective unconscious. Other topics include abuse and neglect, death and dying, the examination of the employee, and the author's interpretation of what it is to be mentally ill. At times, the work is so variable that it is hard to distinguish between mental health worker and client. After all, aren't we all "mentally ill" at some point? ... (read more)

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Humble Secrets

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Intimate Disclosures
by Lawrence W. Manglitz
Stratton Press


"For years as a child I lived in the fear of the Second Coming of Christ
waking in the middle of the night to the silence of the house
remembering the warning: —“Two shall be in the field; one taken, the other left.'"

In this unique collection, readers encounter a variety of poems that act as a celebration, confession, declaration, and memoir. Pieces like "Christmas in 1947" preserve the memory of loving grandparents with boyish recollections balanced with the insights of decades. "Two Remembrances of My Father" tugs at the tenuous threads that tie life to death and belief to disbelief, while "Dying in the Morning Scent of Huckleberries" continues the conversation about, and the questioning of, mortality. These early poetic conversations establish the philosophical, existential insights, the various senses of longing for and pursuit of self-understanding, and the intricacies of one man's relationship with himself and the nature around him that poems such as "Bucharest in the Afternoon" and "The Foiled Swim and the Slender Youth with His Dog Seen on the High Cliff above the Violent Sea in Ibiza" continue. ... (read more)

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Indomitable Love

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Lily Fairchild
by Don Gutteridge
Tablo Publishing (Australia)


"It was as if she were walking towards some endÄ‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă‚Â¦ that lay curled inside her near the heart ready to declaim its desires when this ritual walking was complete."

Born in 1845 in Lambton County, Ontario, Lily Fairchild is the daughter of Irish immigrants. After her mother dies, others help raise Lily while her father works and helps the Underground Railroad. Lily spends the rest of her childhood with Aunt Bridie in Sarnia. She marries and has two sons. She later moves to Mushroom Alley in Point Edward. After a stint in London with a new husband, she returns home under a different name. She marries a third time and raises a grandson. She becomes a mute and a matriarch of her community. ... (read more)

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Rise to Power

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

To Slip the Surly Bonds of Earth: Upon the Further Shore
by Hugh Cameron
Xlibris


"The dead hand of government would cripple or prevent anything useful from emerging."

Neil Munro is a "larger than life individual." He is the heavyweight champion of the world who maintains his title while attending medical school. Munro falls in love with a high-class prostitute named Manon, who refuses marriage because she fears her past will weigh him down from the heights she expects him to reach. Munro then falls in love with and marries Kodama, a Japanese woman who cannot adapt to Western ways and so leaves him in a few years. Ultimately, it is to the daughter of an oil tycoon, Elizabeth Stuart, that Munro is happily married. ... (read more)

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Classic Ghost Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Villa
by M. Warnasuriya
Xlibris


"Gazing at her new home Susan wondered what history and secrets it held."

When Jason Smith purchases a four-story villa for his wife, Susan, the married couple is excited about building their new life together in this dream house. But from the first day in their new home, strange incidents happen, making Susan uneasy. The live-in caretaker, Norton, seems to be of no help either. After further encounters with restless spirits, Susan realizes the villa is haunted and is determined to try and put the supernatural entities to rest. Will she succeed in exorcising the ghosts, or will the Smiths be driven from their new home? ... (read more)

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Fate or Destiny?

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Dueling Wizards of Simpletown
by Whitney Lee Preston
Xlibris


"Even simple prestidigitation had an element of real magic involved Ä‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă¢â‚¬Å“ card tricks where faces of the cards spoke... and any number of other functions that could be built into them by their wizardly creators!"

In three parts, the book examines the simple world of simple people who won a battle against the magical and metaphysical realm of the wizards, rendering the world boring. It left one wizard, Bartimon Montinair, and his not-so-faithful companion, Dibble, searching for another wizard. The adventure is one of connecting the wizards through Dibble's diabolical deeds as he attempts to get Bartimon to meet the perverted dark magician, Mathesus Loton. The confusion of the wizards about their meeting makes for a wonderful romp through the goodness and badness of wizards. The story includes a lot of magical things such as musical instruments, mystical animals (including dragons), a mystical chamber pot, the influence of The Fates, and stuffed animals, or "stuffies," especially the somehow familiar, nasty, and evil orange-haired doll. This all takes place while a duel between the wizards is in the making, and within that duel, the wackiness continues. For what is the fate, or The Fates, regarding such a battle? ... (read more)

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Reflection

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

One Can See Differently by E.C.
by Eugene St. Martin Jr.
iUniverse


"God has knitted each of us in our mother's womb. Our strength and weaknesses are for a purpose. God uses our strengths and weaknesses."

E.C. spends his time tending to the tennis courts in his community and teaching the game that he loves to others by both playing with and instructing them. All of these activities give him plenty of opportunities to reflect on his life, his vocation, and his faith. Tying these three together, he sees his work as a calling that improves his community and begins to understand tennis not as a game of winning and losing, but rather an opportunity to focus on bettering himself and others instead of letting the result dictate his day. Combining a biographical recollection of events with a stream of consciousness that provides clips and ideas in a rapid-fire format, this book is an introspective journey of blending large spiritual concepts with the everyday work that takes place on the physical plane. ... (read more)

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Self-Discovery

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Roslyn, the Reluctant Rattlesnake
by Thomas Fullmer
Xlibris


"Roslyn realized she couldn't give up; she had to survive. She had weathered one of life's storms, now happy to be alive."

An inspiring story about embracing your true self amid loss and adversity, this work introduces us to a tenderhearted snake who struggles against her natural instincts. Saddened by the fear she evokes in other creatures, Roslyn often starves herself, dreading the hunter within her. It isn't until she meets Rico, a fellow rattler (in a dapper white hat), that she discovers love and affirmation. When he vanishes mysteriously, she is overcome with loneliness, searching for him tirelessly and growing weak. Accidentally entering a weasel's den, she is viciously attacked and survives only due to the re-emergence of her instincts, which she now understands make her strong. After discovering a cave in which other welcoming rattlesnakes have found shelter, she soon gives birth to babies (one of which wears a hat like Rico's) and comes to embrace her identity fully: "Roslyn knew there must be someone there to design her life's plan. Now she was fulfilled, surrounded by her clan." ... (read more)

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Economy of Word

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

From the Fabric of My Mind
by Thomas Fullmer
Xlibris


"may I hide from the harsh realities
of my overgrown life
full of responsibility's chains
inhibitions of society
which imprison my soul"

Introspective to its core, Fullmer's poetry masterfully brings every emotion, especially pain, to life, humanizing the speaker and connecting with audiences at the root level of what it means to be human. The essence of the cycle of life and relationships, from husband to father to grandfather, is captured adeptly with the pinpoint use of action verbs and adjectives—from gulls cackling to thunderous waves. Reading Fullmer's work is akin to diving into a treasure trove; each dive will yield something precious. ... (read more)

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Family Joy & Struggle

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Apricot Outlook of Katherine Koon Hung Wong
by Dennis W.C. Wong
Book Vine Press


"Apricots also represent female elegance; the large seed is ovoid shaped like the eyes of an Oriental beauty."

Two generations of family historians united to create this warm and lovely memoir of Katherine (Katy) Wong. The author, Katy's first-born, had the foresight to record his mother's memories. His epilogue begins his mother's tale from her family's early life in China and their move to Hawaii at the start of the twenty-first century. Born in 1928, this fourth child was named Katherine by the midwife. Older siblings and a family business kept her parents busy. Katy's personal reminiscences start with two sudden deaths in her bed: the first occurred when she was three when a sister died of a childhood sickness; years later, her husband died of a massive heart attack. ... (read more)

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Fresh Country Air

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Not So Politically Correct: A Collection of Laughs, Inspirations, Favorite Emails, and Great Stories
by Martha Howald
iUniverse


"I know God values the things we value and think are important and have meaning in our lives."

She marries her high school boyfriend after a baseball knocks out his tooth during practice. After seven years of marriage, Howald accepts God's decision not to grant her biological children and adopts a daughter. A year later, she fills in for her church pianist who is on maternity leave. Within weeks, Howald is pregnant. Almost as soon as she returns from her maternity leave, she finds she is once again expecting. She jokingly attributes her sudden fertility to sitting on the church's piano bench. Howald, a fervent Christian, credits God as the source of her two youngest miracles. Nor does God limit himself to large, life-altering miracles, she has discovered. She firmly declares divine intervention in locating several missing pieces of favorite jewelry over the years. God once even protects her two naughty Dachshunds when they run away during a family camping trip, bringing them both safely home. ... (read more)

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Rough Riding

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Cowgirl Logic
by Crystal Lyons
Stratton Press


"Transitions in life can be just as unsettling as mounting an unbroken colt."

Rodeo star, singer, evangelist, and author Lyons has drawn on her unique, adventure-filled memories to entertain, educate, and encourage in this action-packed collection. Each short episode is a mini-parable from a wide subject range, starting in personal recollection and gradually branching out into practical advice and simple, lively "morals." The opening story concerns a very enthusiastic pitbull puppy, J.J., that her family acquired when the author was a child. Her father urged J.J. to herd the cow into the barn for milking each morning. Then one day, he saw to his horror that his command to J.J. had caused the dog's energetic attack on the cow's udder. Words, Lyons concludes, like her father's words to J.J., are powerful and have consequences. Lyons utilizes a variety of fascinating lore from rodeo and ranching life to illustrate spiritual points: broncos buck, horses obey, people stray, kittens become a barnyard congregation, and some near-miracles occur in her sometimes amusing, sometimes scary, often inspirational offerings of homespun wisdom. ... (read more)

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No Different

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Ultimate Victory: Fulfilling Destiny Through Freedom Healing and Wholeness
by Penny McCoy
Stratton Press


"We all have valleys, mountains, lakes, rivers, trees and clouds in our lives. What will we do with them?"

Author McCoy was raised with a zeal for outdoor life in the magnificent natural setting of Mammoth Mountain. She was skiing by age three and competing by age six, being trained by her enthusiastic sportsman father. In 1966, she made the U.S. World Championship Ski Team and, in Chile, took the bronze in the slalom competition. The following year, though, she began to see flaws in the system; being "older," she was suddenly overlooked for younger, beginning team members and finally was bumped from the team with little notice. She then refused to take a position on the squad if it meant pushing out a friend. Later, married, with children, enduring foot surgeries, and at an emotional low point, she was encouraged to enter the Ironman Triathlon (swimming, biking, running). That experience gave her new goals to pursue, but her greatest influence has been her deep, abiding faith in God. ... (read more)

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Prodogious Intellect

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Living Stones: 52 Love Letters
by Dimitria Christakis
Westwood Books Publishing


"There is not a doubt in my mind that God prepared and jumpstarted the longing in me to write others and share my love."

Christakis, a teacher often called upon to write letters of recommendation in her thirty-year career, was moved by a sudden spiritual impulse to compose this impressive collection of letters to close friends and important acquaintances whose lives have intersected with hers. The weekly segments begin like a typical school year, in September. The collection opens with a letter to the author's brother, Stephen; she notes he is the first person she thought of as she began her challenging task. She expresses her continued care for him and prompts us to remember a brother, or someone close like a brother, and our need to forgive or be forgiven by him. ... (read more)

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War Doctor

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Crossing Borders
by Ilmarinen G. Vogel
Balboa Press


"This would be a road to creating a true connection to a spiritual world... integrated inside the complete world of every living cell."

Doctor Georg Hofmeister is serving as a second lieutenant and physician on a medical train that is being sent to the Russian front during World War II. Under the direction of Doctor von Wallenstein and with an engine crew that travels with the doctors and their staff to maintain its special needs, the rolling hospital services both soldiers at the front as well as any civilians who need medical assistance. Attempting to return after attending to a civilian patient, Georg finds that the medical train, along with its crew, has suddenly vanished. Now he must find his way back across several borders under dangerous circumstances. As either side would consider him a deserter should he be discovered, he could be shot. Along the way, he will be challenged as never before, and his courage and beliefs will be put to the test. ... (read more)

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Power Struggle

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Carthy Family Secret Book 1 of 4 Part 1: The Beginning
by K.M.M.
iUniverse


"One can never tell another how to go home. One must find it on their own."

Reminiscent of Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who, the book creates a memorable world of magic that portrays how something so small can make the world feel so much bigger. Although the introduction of an entire world of magic residing in a crystal can be a bit confusing at first, the author demonstrates a passion for worldbuilding not only in the immense amount of detail that is dedicated to explaining the setting but also in the inclusion of a plethora of fairy tale creatures, many of which seem to be new creations that have never been used before in fantasy. ... (read more)

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Ongoing Battles

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Carthy Family Secret, Book 1 of 4, Part 2: Information and Stories
by K.M.M.
iUniverse


"When Sagmear jumped from the cliff side and fell down, he passed its rugged rocks and grabbed Gregory firmly as he clutched to the side of the mountain for dear life."

The journey begins as readers venture through The Crystal Clusters, which include such fantastic places as Green Garden, Isle of Sorrow, Diamond Forest, and The Isle of Many. It continues with introductions of the members inside the crystals—Ubils, who have traces of evil within them, and then the Good-natureds, members who prosper in goodness and who are categorized by size: Commoner, Teeny, and Vaster. After these brief introductions come the legends and tales, told in both prose and verse, that depict battles and feuds, love and loss, comedy and tragedy, and successes and failures against a backdrop of fairy-summoning graphic art that illuminates the imagination. The legends and tales leap to life and transport readers into a mythical, magical realm opened to only chosen readers and those with a broad curiosity and the willingness to follow the mysterious, and sometimes frightening, paths forward. ... (read more)

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Failure in Leadership

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Generic Acquisition Protocol: How America Steals Her Own Children
by Christopher Lee Nordloh
Book-Art Press Solutions


"Without conspiracy between multiple levels of law enforcement, judicial authority, and officers of the court, a Generic Acquisition Protocol cannot occur."

Readers expecting a straightforward nonfiction account better hold on to their seats because Nordloh pens a tale that reads like fiction, a novel straight from John Grisham's oeuvre. Can it really be true that in Colorado, a judge can steal a child from his legal parent or guardian and whisk him away to the Sungate Facility in Denver, where he can be interrogated without a parent present? The answer is, "Yes." By meticulously detailing a case study in Colorado, Nordloh shows how Generic Acquisition Protocol (GAP) gives the state an excuse to take custody of a child to support an investigation. Analogies from TV shows like The Wire and The Shield help clarify how skirting the law opens a "Pandora's Box of illegal activity by law enforcement." Does the end justify the means? Nordloh thinks not because no judge has the right to employ moral realism, defined as "claiming the ability to divine motive based on a person's actions without interacting with the person involved." ... (read more)

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Recovery Now

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Seek Help or Die Trying: Surviving Drug Abuse
by Esther Morgan
LitFire Publishing


"Drug abuse punishes all of us because it is like a plagueÄ‚Â¢Ă¢â€šÂ¬Ă‚Â¦ Maybe our human race will one day be free of this disease. Until then we must never give up."

Drug abuse is a problem that affects one in eight Americans, and it is only getting worse. Recent years have seen alarming increases in death rates from suicide and overdose—"deaths of despair," as they are called by Morgan in her unflinching account of the painful, chaotic consequences of drug addiction. Seeking to help parents understand the "hideous metamorphosis" that occurs when their children become consumed by drug abuse, Morgan describes the devastating toll drugs took on her own family. Coming from a family history of addiction and a broken home, all three of Morgan's children faced different consequences of addiction: problems at school, stints in rehab, relapses, jail time, homelessness, and life-threatening illness. Beginning with an overview of addiction and codependency, the book moves quickly to telling the stories of each child—David, Daniel, and Sarah—as well as describing Morgan's efforts to cope. ... (read more)

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Deep Dive

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Embrace Your Inner Self: Awaken Your Natural Ability to Heal
by Sangita Patel
Balboa Press


"We do not have to suffer emotionally or physically. Our bodies are a miracle. We can heal, once the focus turns inward."

Mentally traumatized and physically crippled by an auto accident that also killed her brother, author Patel suffered for years, barely able to stand for more than a few minutes at a time, and needing surgery every few months. At last, desperate, she began to "pray for a miracle" and, serendipitously, started to learn about healing techniques that do not rely on Western medicine. Meeting a Qigong Master, she began to explore the use of that discipline's inner energies of yin and yang, transforming both her emotional life and her ability to stand and walk. Her recuperative path began with journaling to recoup her positivity and regular Qigong exercises to restore her natural balance and strength. ... (read more)

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Be Ready

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Dying Well Prepared: Conversations and Choices: A Guide
by Alan Bingham
Stratton Press


"Remember, it is your legacy and your final wish for how and where you want to leave this world when the time comes, and what you want to do in the time between now and then."

Dying, or "end of life," is often a taboo topic in our society, avoided by most until their final moments. Therefore, many are shocked by the burden of planning when their time comes. Acknowledging such an uncertain stage in life can be extremely overwhelming. This is why Bingham, an experienced hospice and palliative care executive, has developed this gentle and informative guide. In this book, he imparts all of the essential resources in preparing for one's end of life, such as choosing a caregiver, financial and medical options when considering the type of care desired, and the imperative nature of discussing wishes with loved ones. ... (read more)

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Familial Love

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Delayed Departure
by Tall Paul
Stratton Press


"You and I have just made a promise to each other, and a promise made is a debt unpaid."

Wil Drury and his brother, Tall, go off to fight in the Great War, but only Wil returns in 1918 to his family and his true love in Wyoming. He has no idea that his life will take a strange turn when his young son dies, and a young lad from New York City turns up at his doorstep to make his life complete again. Jesse James has traveled on one of the historic "Orphan Trains" to Cheyenne, looking for his father after his mother, Memory, becomes ill. He carries in his backpack a homemade knife with Wil's name on it, a dime novel, and a playing card that his mother said would keep him safe. Wil knows immediately from these artifacts that this is Tall's son. ... (read more)

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Sweetness & Drama

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Heroes and Villains: California Dreaming Book 1
by Stacey Johnston
Stratton Press


"There's a horrid feeling of uncertainty circling deep inside of me and it's all to do with him keeping secrets."

Sophie Valentine's life has always revolved around music; she has a talent for singing, and her uncles are founding members of one of the biggest bands in the —“60s. So, when Sophie's father suddenly announces that her family is moving from Solano Beach, CA, to Brooklyn, NY, she doesn't know what to expect. However, Sophie quickly befriends her neighbors and classmates, a group of boys that just so happen to play in a band. Things are going great until Sophie starts to get involved with Ben, and suddenly their relationship is a security risk to Sophie's family. What secret is Ben hiding, and how is Sophie's family connected? ... (read more)

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Creative Energy

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Transcend: The 3 Elements
by Ed Vergara
Stratton Press


"Every human can have permanent access to the Alpha and the Omega, the Dynamic Divine Energy, always in movement and which will bring us toward a bright destiny."

This short book examines not only matter, space, and time but also the power of three in other forms such as nature/universe/divine energy, gas/liquid/solid, spirit/mind/body, faith/hope/love, birth/life span/death, dreams/time/eternity, and physical/mental/spiritual. It examines both the scientific and the spiritual, including the ego and the unconscious, and sees the Supreme Universal Energy as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. The book also focuses on matters of faith, darkness and evil, silence, and the energy of divine love, while helping guide readers into the future through a "rebirth into a new dimension." It explores many questions regarding this power and attempts to offer explanations, sometimes utilizing biblical quotes as a means of revelation. ... (read more)

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True Acknowledgment

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

My Spiritual Checkup
by Catherine Braswell
Xlibris


"You don't have to worry about rushing through your checkup because it is your need that He is here to take care of."

Just as people of all ages schedule appointments with their medical doctors throughout the year to ensure that all is well with their physical bodies, so too must one check in with one's maker, God, to assess spiritual issues in one's life. This is the primary argument posited by Braswell's self-help book. If we take the time to check such vitals as blood pressure, any significant changes in weight, x-rays when bones are thought to be broken, and preventative medicine including mammograms and the like, it is equally important, writes the author, that we make "appointments" with the Great Physician—our primary care provider, Jesus Christ. "The Lord is very concerned about the whole you," Braswell writes, "and He wants to address and fix everything." The author, who herself is a licensed practical nurse as well as a current pastor and Christian counselor, lays out for the reader in thirteen chapters a plan of action. ... (read more)

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Ailing Body

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Is the Church Sick?
by Catherine Braswell
Xlibris


"There is a remedy and cure for the church, and it is found in Jesus, the Word of God."

In this lively, extended analogy, author Braswell poses questions regarding the various sorts of dysfunctions that may be afflicting the Christian church and its congregants. First, she imagines the church with a virus and suggests some candidates for the virus' symptoms: pride would be a major suspect, and weakness or laziness are other possibilities since once the church reaches a "certain depth of maturity, fatigue sets in." Such sickness can begin in the church leadership and spread to the congregants. What about coronary heart disease? The church may have blocked arteries, loss of appetite for the "food" of the spirit that has been watered down over time. If such a disease is causing a blockage in the church, God is needed to perform major surgery. ... (read more)

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Fortunes

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Why
by Marvin V. Blake
Page Publishing


"No matter how hard he tried to avoid making comparisons between the girls, his eyes and his mind... seemed to be inextricably drawn to their similarities."

This epic story follows the lives of half-sisters Rebecca Billings and the slave girl Mandy, born within weeks of each other on a Southern plantation fifteen years before the start of the Civil War. As they grow, the two girls are inseparable. Rebecca teaches Mandy how to read and write, skills that are illegal for slaves in their home state of Virginia. As it becomes evident that the South will face defeat, and the Billings fortune will be lost, the girls leave with their father to begin a new life in the West. However, fate intervenes when their westward-bound wagon train is attacked, and a Comanche tribe captures Rebecca and Mandy. Their time with the Comanche proves a very different experience for each girl, thrusting them into roles they would never have imagined. ... (read more)

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Navigating PC

Book Reviews - US Review of Books


"I can handle the truth. And if it doesn't set me free, I'll be content so long as it doesn't imprison me either."

The life of a small community college can be just as rife with scandal and politics as that of a large university. This is the premise of Gooding's novel. Martin Frey, or Marty, is an English professor who likes to avoid conflicts and keep the watercooler talk to inanities. He enjoys teaching classes and his aloof, quiet life. All that changes when he is asked at a party to keep Kayla Blaze, a young secretary barely half his age, busy because she is turning too many heads. ... (read more)

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Unique Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Imaginary Life
by Mark Gooding
Trafford Publishing


"They had gutters to clean and grass to cut and weeds to pull and bushes to trim, and they were two fully domesticated animals of the genus suburbanus Americanus."

This is a first-person narrative novel told from the vantage point of a young gay man employed at a steel mill in Arizona. Dizzy has had a rough life, being strung out on drugs and homeless before being sent to the mill as part of his rehab. Here he has worked for ten years, constantly moving his crane up and down the railroad tracks, bearing the responsibility for the safety and lives of many men working on the floor below. Any oversight or mistake on his part could lead to molten steel being spilled and instantly burning men alive in seconds. Dizzy decompresses with his best friends, Duffy and Rob. Duffy loves to read but hates school, and Rob loves to provoke fistfights in bars. Eventually, Rob hooks Duffy up with a young woman whom Duffy winds up marrying. This impels Dizzy to go back to school to study nursing. ... (read more)

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See the World

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Beyond the Mountains and Across the Seas: Over 50 Years of Romanticizing Travel
by Hal Davis
Stratton Press


"One can never replace the thrill of actually being present at the unforgettable and historic places that I have been."

Beginning at age 19, writer Davis had the opportunity to travel while in the Marine Corps and when working for the U.S. Government, and later by choice with his wife, Susan. Every page of this travel memoir is graced with photographs, mostly taken by or of the author. He places flowers at a warrior's grave in France in 2018, and as a young man, is seen roaming Piccadilly Circus or posing near the Rock of Gibraltar. He has a photographer's eye for great architecture: the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Alhambra in southern Spain, China's Forbidden City. Alone or with Susan at his side, he visits, revisits, explores, and enthusiastically describes everything from grand European cities, the Italian countryside, famous icons like Big Ben, Mt. Fuji and China's Great Wall to humble markers like a red London phone booth or a captured Japanese flag from World War II. ... (read more)

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What We Do

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rivalry Exposed: Why People Hate You
by Paul M. Valliant
Tellwell Talent


"Insight regarding human behavior will allow you to become aware of the underlying emotions which cause people to behave and act maliciously."

With extensive knowledge of clinical and forensic psychology, author Valliant provides insight into the thorny issue of rivalry: Why do some people seek to control and take advantage of others? And what can we do to fend off such challenging, potentially dangerous behaviors when confronted? The author begins with a surprising example of a distressing childhood, often the seedbed for rivalry. Anna Freud, the daughter of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, felt ill-treated in childhood because of her father’s obvious favoritism for her sister Sophie. Fortunately, she was able to overcome her sense of low self-esteem by building her own career. Psychopaths, bullies, narcissists, and borderline personalities may, Valliant states, be in prison. Just as often, though, they are our apparently respectable, white-collar co-workers. To resist their negative tactics requires our will-power, drive, optimism, and even, at times, humor. ... (read more)

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An Ancient Enigma

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Loaded Blessings
by Faith Quintero
Chaiwright


"'I will find the match for my medieval Shabat candlestick holder.'"

In the mid-1400s in Spain, a girl named Sancia is coming to grips with a harsh reality. As Jews, she and her family are liable to be taunted, tortured, and even executed by their Christian rulers. She will watch with horror when her father and other innocents are captured and burned alive. Later, despite their family's migrations, the Inquisition follows them. Sancia will help establish a new colony in a new world, using the resources of a family heirloom" a pair of candlestick holders containing hidden treasures. ... (read more)

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American Socialism

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Socialism Revealed: Why Socialism's Issues Have Never Permitted Success In A Real Economy
by Phillip J. Bryson
Stratton Press


"When people are free to pursue their own interest, they can use their freedom to conduct the ordinary business of life to their own advantage and people tend to prosper. It is only bad economic policy that stands in the way of social success."

Bryson has researched comparative economic systems, international economics, and socialism for half a century. As part of his lifelong exploration, he has lived and worked in West Berlin, East Berlin, Munich, Vienna, London, Moscow and elsewhere, has taught in universities, and to date has authored eight books on these and related topics. As a result of all that impressive background, Professor Bryson states that he has great concerns about the fiscal, social, and political implications of socialist initiatives in recent American history, particularly in the Obama administration. To deal with his concerns, he has decided to bring them to light in this latest effort. He accomplishes that with an abundance of historical perspectives, detailed explanations, and deliberate viewpoints. ... (read more)

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Seeling Peace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Skaterboi
by Mary Ramsey
Amazon.com Services


"I knew I must have looked ridiculous, like a starstruck fanboy. But I didn’t want to leave his embrace. 'I’m good, I’m really good.' It was at this moment I knew; this was where I belonged."

This poignant novel tells the story of broken people coming together to help each other heal. Jack—the narrator and protagonist—paid his way through medical school by working as an amateur “skaterboi” porn star. This sex work draws the attention of Val Kepler, a Hollywood action hero with a history of broken relationships and drug abuse. Val is dying of cancer, and his troubled, addicted daughter Kat hires Jack to be her father’s caregiver. Jack moves to California, and he and Val embark on a passionate love affair. Val’s ex-wife and Jack’s father make brief appearances, further complicating the story’s web of relationships. In the end, these tortured characters try as best they can to achieve the peace that has eluded them. ... (read more)

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Word Beats

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rhythm of My Soul: A Book of Poems
by Tapati Bhaumik
URLink Print and Media


"Knowledge makes life meaningful
Truth makes life simple
Love makes life worth living"

The author has divided this first book of her poetry into sections containing devotional, nature, love, and other poems. Some of Bhaumik's offerings point to the fact that heaven lives already within us. Others paint beautiful delicate images of moments in nature, describing the colors in the sky at sunset and how the earth is then "wrapped in a blanket of black" at nighttime. She writes of a loving mother and a loving father. She writes of her arranged marriage, many years ago, which over time has proven to be a most beautiful, loving friendship. The poet pens an ode to the Buddha, that "great noble soul / (who) came on a full moon day / to illuminate humanity, / lead to path of liberation." Bhaumik also writes what are essentially love poems to Mother Earth, of gentle breezes and dewdrops on green grass. She declares that "life is beautiful" and celebrates the magic and power in a precious smile. ... (read more)

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Intimate Words

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Geraldina & the Compass Rose: One Woman’s Faith-Filled Journey to Find Love, A Memoir
by Geraldine Brown Giomblanco
GBG Books


"What my grandmother was always trying to teach me was that God is love, and love is the only reason why we’re on this planet."

A successful 30-year-old career woman seems to have it all. Yet something is missing: a loving life partner. Then in 1995, she meets a strangely prescient man in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport who gives her hope. He tells her to "hold on to the little girl" inside her and to listen for signs from her beloved, deceased Italian grandmother, Rosaria. She courageously commits to a self-examined life, fueled by optimism and intuition, always searching for signs made meaningful by her Catholic faith. ... (read more)

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Soul-Searching Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Bliss
by Fredrick Soukup
Regal House Publishing


"So, we’re learning more deeply than any before us just how unfulfilling lives of American materialism are."

The search for a meaningful life receives fresh treatment in this thoroughly modern tale of a man torn between two worlds. Connor abandons his plans for medical school and moves to Chicago's inner city. He works in a warehouse, volunteers at a community center, and slowly forms bonds with the kids seeking refuge at the center. In his restless search for connection and purpose, he falls in love with Danielle, a woman whose life is inextricably linked to the desperation and hope of her Chicago community. Then Connor, wracked with infinite uncertainty about his future, returns home to his upper-middle-class upbringing and swiftly gets entangled in a white-collar career, unexpected fatherhood, and suburban malaise. But the track of Connor's life continues to curve and swerve. He is always in the driver's seat, looking for a way back to the life he really wants with Danielle. ... (read more)

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Healthy Soul

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Spiritually Fit You
by Catherine Braswell
Xlibris


"So now, what happens when your sight is spiritually operating at 20/20 on a regular or daily basis?"

The concept of fitness has almost unanimously been conceived as that of appearances—both physical and tangible—and that of mental health. However, now more than ever, spiritual health is a key component of one's existence, a bridge between strong mental and physical health. Integrating scriptures to accompany the author's lessons and salient advice, Braswell's work focuses on the aspects of the spirit that will help keep the wandering mind from going astray permanently. The author's vision employs a combination of a realistic outlook (understanding that human nature is, at its core, imperfect and fallible) with hopeful exuberance. The Bible is mankind's spiritual compass. When utilized and adopted into daily life, it will not only allow one to stay strong of mind during adversity but also live in the grace and mercy of God regardless of the outcome. ... (read more)

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Zeitgeist

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Man Who Gave Away His Organs: Tales Of Love And Obsession At Midlife
by Richard Michael Levine
Capra Press


"He became more tender, even maternal, as emotionally distant men often do when they grow old, even without heartbreak in their lives."

This collection of nine short stories is basically what its subtitle promises. Both love and obsession, in one form or another, are the lynchpins of each tale. While the main character within each story varies somewhat from yarn to yarn, there is an overall patina of a prototypically successful middle-aged Jewish man being microscopically examined for telltale signs of angst, ennui, male menopause, or perhaps the true meaning of life. In subject matter as well as style, echoes of Philip Roth hover between the lines figuratively prodding the prose to stand up to a level of advanced scrutiny. More often than not, it does. ... (read more)

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Dark Wit

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

An Untamed Sea Story
by Samuel Dean
Godspeed Loj Publishing


"My dad always said the only good doctors are the ones on TV."

Dean Angel, a veteran police officer, retires in disgrace after embezzling department funds. Relief from his duties couldn’t come at a worse time. Just as he comes to terms with his dismissal, he develops a deadly brain tumor—one more common to tribal societies in the tropics. The condition uncannily heightens his five senses, appears to enhance his crime-fighting skills, and gives him the urge to right any wrongs he encounters. But his illness is terminal, and Angel resolves not to die except on his own terms. That means piloting his sailboat until he can no longer function. The more time he spends alone at sea, the more distorted become his view of reality and his perceptions of criminal and legal activity. Is Angel a fearless, highly gifted enforcer of justice? Or are his heroism and disease in his head in more ways than one? ... (read more)

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A Candid Account

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The End: A Story of Truth
by Adam Rudolph
Wrecking Balls Publishing


"'Are you okay?'
Like a form letter being automatically sent upon receipt of an unsolicited email, I spouted off my standard response:
'Yeah, I'm just really tired.'"

The protagonist tells this tell-all memoir to his friend Adam in the confines of a hospital room after he has just survived a suicide attempt. The attempt was through an overdose of sleeping pills, downed with an enormous amount of alcohol. As each harrowing chapter of the story unfolds, we learn of his growing up in a family with a hot-tempered and verbally abusive father, a man who eventually is imprisoned for sexually abusing the protagonist's younger sister. ... (read more)

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Wonderful Legacy

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Loving Andrew: A Fifty-Two-Year Story of Down Syndrome
by Romy Wyllie
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


"In deciding to reject… institutionalization and to care for our child ourselves, we had chosen to open one of the tightly closed doors in the long corridor of life."

When Andrew Wyllie was born in 1959, the only other Down syndrome baby his doctor had delivered had been sent away. Andrew’s parents took the risk to raise their son despite the doctor’s warnings. Andrew became an integral member of his family—educable, able to work, fall in love, and live in a supported setting. He traveled and participated in recreational activities such as horseback riding, running, and bowling. He developed mental illness and other health complications at thirty-eight and passed away at age fifty-two. ... (read more)

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The Unforeseen

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Just Another Girl on the Road
by S. Kensington
Matador


"Although not formally trained, she had an instinct for survival, naïve bravery, and a rather wild, almost savage unpredictability that was perfectly suited for the job."

Near the end of World War II, Katrinka Badeau finds herself in the hands of the ruthless German soldiers who had murdered her mother and stepfather. She is suddenly rescued by two members of the Jedburghs, “a multinational undercover operation made up of agents from the British SOE, French Resistance, and American OSS.” The leader of the British faction, Major Willoughby Nye, is an old friend of Katrinka’s father—a shipowner who is holding plastic explosives meant to destroy a strategic bridge. Once Katrinka is brought back to the Jedburgh camp and reunited with Nye—a man on whom she had secretly had a crush as a teenager—she is presented with a proposition to work with the undercover group. Her first assignment is to find her father’s ship and bring back the explosives. Sergeant Wolfe Farr, one of the men who rescued Katrinka, is opposed to her being a secret agent for the Jedburghs. Wolfe and Katrinka have an instant connection and attraction to each other, and Wolfe fears for her safety. However, independent and headstrong Katrinka immediately agrees to help in any way possible to stop the Germans. The three main characters are not only connected by their work in the resistance, but also by the passions that draw the two men to Katrinka and her love for both Nye and Farr. ... (read more)

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Urgency

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rain of Fire: Book 2 of the Yellowstone Series
by Linda Jacobs
Goodreads Press


"Who's going to believe something's going on underneath all this peaceful beauty unless we bide our time and gather evidence?"

Kyle Stone is a geologist who specializes in studying and monitoring earthquakes. As a child, she watched her parents die in the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake near Yellowstone. Scarred by the tragedy, she lives a life of vigilance and fear. But her knowledge and expertise bring her out into the field when a series of strange occurrences break out at Yellowstone. To Kyle, they are warning signs from the earth. She embarks on a race against time to prove that the beauty of Yellowstone belies its fury, which simmers with the potential to crack, quake, and boil. Joining her quest into the backcountry are two men from her past. One is a ranger, and one is a volcanologist. As she faces her childhood tragedy and fears, she begins to consider a future filled with hope rather than terror. ... (read more)

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The Art in You

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Art for All Ages: Reignite Your Artistic Self
by Corinne Miller Schaff
Top Reads Publishing


"No matter what artistic stage you fall into now, you have an abundance of innate artistic ability that's waiting to be tapped."

Created by an art teacher with 35 years of experience in her field, this art instruction book was written by a person well-practiced in coaxing young students to reach deep within and courageously exert themselves in artistic activity. The focus is on the exertion, not on theorizing or judgmental expectations. After a short review of "ingredients," where concepts like color wheels, tints, shade, perspective, bodies, and faces are covered, the author immediately jumps into a series of 32 activities that are heavy on participation. Her pedagogical method is one of immersion and praxis, leaving theory to only short notes regarding the ingredients needed. There are short vignettes describing famous movements like Cubism and artists like Wyeth in detailed sidebars. However, these are always followed, as in all activities, with the student trying his hand at that new technique or mimicking the famous artist discussed. ... (read more)

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A New Treasure

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Little Big Sister on the Move
by Amy B. McCoy
KDP


"Just thinking of starting over again with new friends in a new town made my breathing get fast and my stomach feel funny."

Starting a new school in a new town is a stressful situation for any kid, but for fourth-grader Katie, it has the potential to be a nightmare. Katie's brother, Mikey, has autism. Though he is a year older than Katie, she feels as if she is the older of the two because he behaves much younger than other children his age. Though Katie loves her brother, she finds herself embarrassed by his behavior at times. Her friends at her old school understood her brother, his sometimes strange behavior, and his rambunctious personality. Now in a new town, she fears that no one will understand. However, Katie is pleasantly surprised to find that, for the most part, her new community is more than welcoming and understanding about Mikey. As she acclimates to her new surroundings, she finds new ways to teach others about autism and how to relate to Mikey and others like him. And though dealing with a sibling with autism is at times frustrating, Katie learns that when people begin to understand the disorder, they are more accepting of those they perceive as different. ... (read more)

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The Rest of the Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Old Gun, Finding Sundance: A Novel
by Randal Benjamin
Young Lions at the Gate


"'I’m telling you, he got lucky... no old, over-the-hill rancher could’a done what you say without getting’ lucky. Now just drop it.'"

A bunch of hired thieves plans to take over the oil-rich land of an Oklahoma township where aging Harry Kidwell and wife, Etta, have made their home for nearly a decade. They are no longer running from the law—just trying to lay low and raise their two children. The only gun allowed on the ranch is owned by Clarence, their black ranch hand. Harry's thirteen-year-old son, Lee, thinks his dad is a coward, especially when the father does nothing while neighbors are being robbed and killed. Lee knows what to do. He writes a letter to his "uncle" Leroy in Seattle asking for help. Unknowingly, he unleashes the power of a notorious gang long believed to have died in South America. ... (read more)

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Aura of Reverence

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Structures of Reverie
by Josephine Sacabo
Luna Press


"This is the story of a woman who invents her freedom by creating an imaginary architecture made of light, scraps of memory, hopes and dreams."

The mind can be immensely tricky to navigate. All the riches in the world could be bestowed upon you, but if one is a prisoner of the mind, then everything else is rendered meaningless. On the other hand, even if one is locked up in darkness and stone, an imaginative brain is the key to freedom. In this book of photographs of architecture, inspired by the true story of Juana la Loca—allegedly Spain’s sixteenth-century mad queen—Sacabo’s structures and sketches speak volumes. ... (read more)

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Prior to Chaos

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Secret of Immortality: The Tombmaker’s Village
by C J McKivvik
Tellwell Talent


"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."

When esteemed professor John Wainwright collapses on the opening night of the International Conference on Life Research, a whirlwind of revelations leaves the Life Research Group four months away from zero funding. It also leaves Professor Tom Carrott perplexed. What initially seems like an untimely demise quickly turns into a wild chase featuring the CIA, Mossad, biotechnology firms, and international professors as they chase the ultimate elusive elixir: immortality. ... (read more)

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