US Review of Books - Book Review Service

US Review Blog Twitter Facebook Instagram GoodReads Linked-In USR Subscribe US Review RSS feed

Book Reviews

search engine by freefind

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.

Recent Reviews

Focus Review

Featured Reviews

US Review Blog
 

Recent Book Reviews

 

Focus Review
Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Genealogy Lesson for the Laity
by Cathryn Shea
Unsolicited Press


"Use your head.
Imagination is a peculiar clay,
infinity captured
in the dark matter we don’t understand."

One of the most alluring and powerful things about poetry is that it offers the poet the opportunity to say things indirectly, using the simple selection of words to make the ordinary magical. For example, there is the attention to detail in poems like “Drano Didn’t Work,” which chronicles the hiring of a drainage company to service the author’s home. The same care is given to poems about bad hospital food and the dread of an unpleasant diagnosis or a dying friend. This collection of poems broaches these big and small eventualities of life with the same gravity, processing them with the same levity. It illustrates how the same coping tools can tackle any problem, and how a sardonic but compassionate view will find the silver lining in any challenge. ... (read more)

Read the US Review of Books Previous Edition

back to top

Featured Book Reviews

 

Beautifully Comprehensible

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Sing Like Never Before: A Creative Look at Vocal Technique and Pedagogy for Singers and Voice Teachers
by Justin Stoney
Mission Point Press


"Practice singing so that you can truly live. After all, it’s not the destination… it’s the vocal journey."

Award-winning author and widely acclaimed voice teacher Stoney opens a vast realm of exploration and examination for becoming and being a singer. His techniques are shared here in a mind-stirring combination of idea-laden narrative and graphic images that focus on the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of song making. The large-format guidebook begins with breathing. As with each detail covered, artist Mark Pate's full-color cartoons expertly illustrate the segments in this opening chapter. Here they show the structure and location of the diaphragm, which controls a person's breathing, and from which the singer's deepest power may emanate. Yet even here, as throughout this work, Stoney reminds readers that vocal artists for whom any particular skill is challenging can "sing like never before." Further recommendations on breathing and other bodily aspects of producing desired sounds include Pate's pictorial views of singing-related organs and structures inside the body. In addition to breathing techniques, Stoney's succinct advice covers in simple but intelligent terms such important areas of a singer's concentration as resonance, posture, the tongue, jaw and mouth, vocal health, performance, and the crucial understanding and utilization of vocal folds. ... (read more)

back to top

Enagaging Stories

Highlight Review
Book Reviews - US Review of Books

True Surrealism
by Christopher Klim
Hopewell Publications


"In western culture, it seemed that a man was defined by the pile of gold he created, and on Tuesday, my severance pay ran out."

Klim's collection of contemporary short stories, spans the United States and literary conventions: a chef preparing a condemned man's last meal, an abused boy who learns to survive from his dog, a man who witnesses his life spilled upside down, a girl passing through several challenging lives, an engineer pushed outside the blueprint of his life, a husband and wife who shed all to rediscover each other—told with the light, deft touch and well tuned dialogue that Klim's readers will be familiar with from his novels'a variety of characters and situations for every taste. ... (read more)

back to top

Emotionally Charged

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Mothers of Pine Way
by Corrine Ardoin
Black Rose Writing


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

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

back to top

Evocative Prose

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Woven Flag
by Margaret Fourt Goka
BookVenture Publishing LLC


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

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

back to top

Lives & Loss

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Captive Crisis

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Forever Wild, Forever Home: The Story of The Wild Animal Sanctuary of Colorado
by Melanie and Mark Shellenbarger
Pyree Square Publishing


"Here, above all else, the animals set their own agenda. And that is the difference between a zoo and a true animal sanctuary."

This book covers the miraculous efforts of Pat Craig, the founder of Colorado's The Wild Animal Sanctuary—a place where more than 500 wild animals call home. The story begins after Craig rescues a baby jaguar, Freckles, and continues through forty years of environmental and conservation awareness. It examines the rise in popularity of shows like Tiger King and the United States' lack of federal oversight regarding large animal ownership. It introduces readers to the sanctuary's "ground-breaking, species-driven, and carefully tailored animal rehabilitation programs." Readers become friends with Clay the tiger, Ricki the black bear, and Gala the lioness—animals whose successful recovery stories are highlighted in this book. Readers also learn about the captive wildlife crisis permeating America and vicariously travel through decades of hard work, well-earned patience, and the continued and recent expansion of the sanctuary in a new Texas installation. ... (read more)

back to top

Unforgettable Story

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Eban and the Dolphins
by Carolyn Davis


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

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

back to top

Certain Grace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Sharp, Swift, Credible

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Dead Horses: A Peter Romero Mystery
by David E. Knop
Bookbaby


"'They’re haters, both sides are waiting for an excuse to shoot,' he said. 'Your crazy-ass story will just get `em riled up. One shot and a full-blown firefight breaks out.'"

In times gone by, there were plenty of reasons the West was referred to as wild. The present, however, does not take a back seat to the past where action and adventure are concerned in this rough and tumble tome of turbulent times in contemporary New Mexico and Colorado. Author Knop makes today's West come alive with vivid characterizations, authentic place setting, intricate plotting, plus a respect for the land and its inhabitants that comes across as absolutely sincere and not simply tacked on for politically correct purposes. His depictions of modern-day Native Americans encompass their very real struggles with today's problems while acknowledging their connections to the sacred ways of their ancestors. This odd dichotomy of ancient races living and working in modern times infuses Knop's story with additional insight and interest woven from an intense study into his literary cast. He knows his characters, how he wants to honestly depict them, as well as the engaging scenarios he wraps around them. The author is working at the top of his game, as both his narrative and the way it is told grab readers early and hold them tight until the very end. ... (read more)

back to top

Box Turtle Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Santa Fe Tom
by Rachel Bate
Mascot Books


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

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

back to top

Engaging Plots

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Helen’s Orphans
by Ron Fritsch
Asymmetric Worlds


"I wondered who we were, what for. War took his kinfolk off to die. But who were mine, and who was I?"

In Greek mythology, the legendary Trojan War is universally recognized for the carnage it caused and the notion that it stemmed from ego-fueled ambitions of attaining Helen, anointed as the most beautiful woman in the world. With this tale as inspiration, Fritsch peels back the curtain even more and spins a complex web of secrets and revelations that keep the audience engaged throughout. ... (read more)

back to top

Our Evolving Brain

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Story of Homo Loquens: How We Have Changed into Another Species
by Dan M. Mrejeru
Global Summit House


"“…language was one of the fundamental tools that shaped our ‘world of order’ by suppressing the elements that appeared to contain ‘disorder.’"

Humans are born with the potential to learn languages. This ability does not leave us as we age. Retention of such a juvenile characteristic as the need or desire to communicate is called neoteny. Through language, we have achieved such goals as effective agriculture and the establishment of complex societies by means of our ability to name their components, such as tools or laws. Human communication is the most outwardly apparent sign of humanity's potential for creativity and innovation. Such creativity also manifests itself in the production of music and other art forms. Ultimately, a perpetually inquisitive human brain is likely to remain healthier—that is, more adaptable to new ideas—than that of someone who deliberately or otherwise stops learning. ... (read more)

back to top

Heartfelt Tribute

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Dog’s Life: A Collection of Humorous Tributes Celebrating Man’s Best Friend
by Peter Boygo
BookBaby


"As is often the case with those displaying an aptitude for math, Tiger was also a gifted musician. The piano was his instrument of choice, with jazz improve his forte."

In a society where pet and particularly dog ownership is becoming more and more integrated into family and individual life, an aspect of pet ownership that all pet lovers must face is the passing of one's beloved friend. As dog lovers encounter this difficult time, the grieving process proves itself as intricate, intimate, and individual as the grieving process one experiences when losing any human family member. More so, in a dog-eat-dog world where even the smallest ounce of puppy love from a therapy or family dog can make the largest difference, these humorous tributes—sure to make readers laugh, cry, and remember all at the same time—are one author's attempt to bring peace and healing to the lives of dog owners who have lost their best friend. ... (read more)

back to top

Dark Conspiratorial World

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Natalie Stone: Beyond Survival and into the Light
by Martin J. Ryan


"'A fragment of my Mom's dress in my hands. A floral print that I remember. It never ends.'"

Natalie, a brilliant young computer science student, is raped by a footballer at their college. Familiar with trauma since her parents' death, this latest tragedy triggers her usual response: disappearance. She hacks into government sites to change her identity, outs her attacker to the news, and escapes. She and Mario, a mentor hacker she befriends online, meet in the Sierras. Over hikes, confessions, and self-defense training, they fall in love. But their safety dissolves when Mario's enemies locate them. Natalie hides out in Seattle, then joins the military, deployed to Iraq, where she is further traumatized by war and more predatory men. Her wizard-like computer skills afford her a way out of the troubled country. Working at a firm outside of Washington, D.C., she follows a trail of damning evidence, exposing the man behind her greatest personal loss and that of many others. ... (read more)

back to top

The Christian Experience

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Liberation From Self

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Ancient Beliefs in Modern Times

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Family Saga

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Pages and Leaflets of North Oxfordshire: My Lineage Pre-1700-1959
by Angela Fortnum
AuthorHouse


"John’s occupation was a weaver, and he probably made cloth on handlooms… John was probably an artisan of his day."

Using diligent research and an evident thirst for knowledge of her personal ancestry, author Fortnum has composed this chronicle presenting the highlights of the people and happenings in her mother's family. She knew that the family hailed from two villages in North Oxfordshire, England. In questing for historical references in South Newington and Milcombe, her search for written records of the Page family was launched when she found a reference to James Page, brother of her “seven-times-GGF” (great-grandfather). She surmises that James may have been born a Quaker since there was a Quaker meeting in the area. His surname likely indicated his occupation. His son John, a weaver, had four boys and two girls, the girls having been mentioned in a will found in local annals. The Page surname flowed through the author's ancestry until the generation following that of her grandfather, Harry James Page—a miller whose daughter Muriel, born in 1916, met and married John Fortnum during the time of the Second World War. The author was their child, born in 1948. She still resides in the house where she was born. ... (read more)

back to top

Passion & Authenticity

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rescuing General Patton
by Curtis Stephen Burdick
Gene-Freak Publishing


"If you find the target and are unable to accomplish mission, kill the target. REPEAT kill the target. Target must not remain in enemy hands."

Hemingway is credited with saying, "All good books have one thing in common—they are truer than if they had really happened." That thought can definitely be ascribed to this World War II novel where fact and fiction cohabitate imaginatively in chapter after chapter. The literary conceit is simple enough: suppose the Germans had apprehended General Patton. However, the plot that follows is anything but simple, as the highest echelons of U.S. Command plan an incredibly desperate mission to simultaneously hide his capture from the world and rescue the fabled warrior. ... (read more)

back to top

All Together

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Eek! My Ink!
by Raven Howell
Acute By Design


"My fingers glisten forest leaves, / An oak, I’m dancing on the breeze."

In this celebration of color, the natural world, and the self, young readers enter a bright, beautiful world where imperfection leads to new creations: "Eek! the yellow color splatters, / Now a little duckling paddles / Monarch butterflies abound / Where sunflowers sprout from the ground." Ink spills in every imaginable color, and an act that some would perceive as an uncorrectable accident transforms over and over into spouting whales, shadowy landscapes, a mouse's toes, and even a Flamingo King. Wolves and pandas emerge from "drizzled drops of sprinkled gray." Meanwhile, a needed message about the beauty of individualism blossoms and glows like the book's "honey golden shining sun": "Each and every color brings / It's perfect shade of song it sings." ... (read more)

back to top

Full Engagement

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Unparalleled

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Vortex Street
by Page HIll Starzinger
Barrow Street Press


"Who are we, where do we come from, where do we go.
How can we leave each other.
How do we stay together."

Fittingly titled, Starzinger's poetry compilation stunningly captures the elapsing of time through a swirling array of loss and anguish, nostalgia and yearning, and a subtle reconciliation for what cannot be had once lost: time. As the poet probes deeper, her poems become a commentary not only on the speaker's state of being and experiences but also speak to a greater collective vortex of time and memories as they merge to become a fusion of love and regret. ... (read more)

back to top

Vignettes for the Soul

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Twelve Gifts from the Garden: Life Lessons for Peace and Well-Being
by Charlene Costanzo
Mango Publishing Group


"Plants help us breathe. They have healing power. Wordlessly, they lead us toward understanding. They teach by example."

Much of this charming collection by award-winning author Costanzo was inspired by visits to Sanibel Island off the western coast of Florida, a nature preserve that enjoins visitors with the sign, "Do Enjoy. Don't Destroy." She and her family were entranced by the wide expanse of shimmering turquoise water on their first journey there. Her earliest memory of flower appreciation came when, as a child mostly surrounded by a cement-covered city, she derived joy from a tiny patch of greenery and wildflowers. Her Slovakia-born grandmother gave her respect for the "tree" of family roots and connection. Costanzo found in Sanibel's plant life, from the tiniest blossoms to the thorniest trees, not only beauty and natural vigor but a kind of communicative quality, evoking the fascinating meditations presented here. ... (read more)

back to top

A Unique View

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

3D Disneyland: Like You've Never Seen It Before
by David Bossert
The Old Mill Press


"That is the wonder of 3D photography—it can capture a moment in both time and space for posterity."

A classic coffee table book is produced well enough to handle many touches and provide easy entertainment for both the casual browser and someone taking a more dedicated interest. Bossert's book perfectly fits this description. This collection consists of nearly one hundred 3D photos taken at Disneyland. Most of the pictures are from the 50s and the 80s, with a few recent ones included near the book's end. This sturdy book also includes the 3D glasses necessary for viewing the photos. Additionally, opposite each photo is a description of the image and when it was taken. The images capture many of Disneyland's classic monuments and provide a glimpse into how the park has changed. In addition, looking at the visitors in the photos from the different decades opens a window into the changing dress and norms of the park's many visitors. ... (read more)

back to top

Saintly Teenaged Angst

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Saints and Martyrs
by Aaron Roe
Atmosphere Press


"Whatever the state of his soul, his yearning for sanctity was sacred."

Damian Kurt is a teenage boy from a pious family. It is so pious, in fact, that he believes his dead father to have been a saint and is writing his father's biography in order to prove it. Damian also adheres to a firm belief that if he can achieve saintliness here on earth, he will one day be reunited with his father in heaven. It's a gigantic undertaking for the sensitive and troubled teen fighting the carnal instincts and desires of all teenage boys. With his father dead, a controlling and manipulative mother, and a household consisting of his grandmother, his ex-priest uncle, and two younger siblings, Damian finds he feels smothered. After an accident lands him in the hospital and his mother finds and reads his journal aloud to him, Damian decides to leave home. But his time away is short-lived, and when his mother welcomes him with open arms and a tale of her own, he makes the fateful decision to join a monastery. However, once he arrives at the monastery, he discovers that life there isn't what he thought it would be. In fact, there are things going on that will challenge his faith forever. ... (read more)

back to top

A Hard Price

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Billion Dollar Bracket
by Drew Bridges
BQB Publishing


"Are you interested in a proposal to make you the easiest $5M you will ever make?"

With March Madness just around the corner, Sinclair Dane contacts a handful of heavyweights in Las Vegas and proposes they support her Billion Dollar Bracket contest. Contestants pay a two-dollar entry fee for a chance to win a billion. However, the odds of winning are astronomical, which is good as Sinclair doesn't have the billion to pay a winner. Meanwhile, Dr. Lewis Cusac has moved to Boiling Springs to care for his dying niece and assume responsibility for her intellectually disabled eleven-year-old daughter, Cheeky. Taking over a remedial math class at Gardner-Webb University, he must find a way to interest the students in mathematical concepts. When a student in his class states he'd like to learn about statistics to win the Billion Dollar Bracket, Cusac proposes to use the playoffs as a class project. Will this mathematician find a way to use statistics to win the bracket, and if so, how will Sinclair pay? ... (read more)

back to top

A Rich Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Sunrise in Florence
by Kathleen Reid
Köehler Books


"Her breathing came short and fast as the enormity of the discovery struck her. All of her senses were alive."

Twenty-seven-year-old Rose chooses adventure over conventionality when she leaves her safe American schoolteacher life and moves to Florence, Italy. There, in a tale that pays homage to stories of women heading to Italy in search of art, love, and adventure, such as Under the Tuscan Sun, Enchanted April, Three Coins in the Fountain, Roman Holiday, and Eat, Pray, Love, she buys a home, juggles two love interests, investigates an art history mystery reminiscent of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, edges toward resolving her relationship with her demanding mother, and chooses her adult path forward. ... (read more)

back to top

Unraveling

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Almost Supernatural

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Estelle: A Novel
by Linda Stewart Henley
She Writes Press


"Now she would examine reproductions of Degas’s ballerina paintings, try to copy his style, and introduce some nuanced white areas into her own paintings to create more striking luminosity, as he had."

In this book, readers enter a haunting world of jolting cross-generational secrets that span almost 100 years. Readers enter the narratives of Anne Gautier, a struggling art intern, and Estelle, the Creole cousin and sister-in-law of Edgar Degas. Anne discovers an intimate journal written by a relative who knew Degas, which unlocks shocking, uncanny parallels between the past and the present. As Anne ventures through mysteries, family dramas, and sagas—as well as never before seen explorations of the only French Impressionist painter to ever work in the United States—she must also confront the confusing parts of herself and her relationship, which add another dimension to the mysterious circumstances unfolding around her. Meanwhile, she also explores the complexities of The Big Easy's history and various cultures, a city as enthralling and haunting as Anne's past, which influence Anne's family history more than she can initially realize. ... (read more)

back to top

Family Saga

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Measuring Up: Fourth Volume in the Good Neighbors Series
by Janet M. Dann
DannWorks


"One thing you gotta learn ‘bout cowboys right now is they don’t cry. No way. No how. Ever!"

To call this a coming-of-age novel would be to give it far less justice than it deserves. While adolescents are present, and they do, in fact, come of age, it's really about adults who achieve personal growth themselves when it comes to understanding others who live in different circumstances than their own. One could think of it as a coming-to-enlightenment novel. ... (read more)

back to top

A Powerful Punch

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Careering: The Pocket Guide to Exploring Your Future Career
by Tamara S. Raymond
Morgan James Publishing


"...two kinds of jobs: with one type, you are there just to make money; with the other,... career building. But... you can learn valuable skills at either."

In the preface, the author states her goal is to bring fun, exploration, and adventure into career building. Usually, this process is considered to be about responsibility and accountability. To accomplish her unique purpose, Raymond has tucked this shirt-pocket-sized guide full of hints, steps, and simple guidelines to help readers focus on finding a career. ... (read more)

back to top

Great Suspence

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Ex Libris
by John Oehler


"If thickness was any measure, Control knew Lovel best. Jade reread his dossier. More details than were necessary for a job in which she only had to track him."

Dan Lovel, a former agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service who freelances in discovering art forgeries and recovering stolen art, is sent a message and a ticket to meet on the island of Grand Cayman from Astrid Desmarais, a World Bank executive whose life he saved. The meeting results in Dan's accepting a commission to return four books—and, perhaps more significantly, a fifth—from a collection of "forbidden books" currently in Prague. Astrid tells Dan that the books were expropriated by Napoleon and by rights should be returned to the Louvre. The World Bank mystery woman knows how to play upon Dan's feelings of theft and betrayal, as his ancestors include people of Jewish and Gypsy lineage who were robbed, imprisoned, and killed during the Nazi era. ... (read more)

back to top

Rainforest Intrigue

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Temple of Eternity
by R. Scott Boyer
Main Street Publishing


"He says you have the Gift: the power to see into the spirit world."

This young adult thriller takes a visionary turn as sixteen-year-old Bobby Ether and his allies battle Core, a militaristic cult at La Muerte Verde, the location of an ancient Mayan temple complex deep in the Guatemalan rainforest. Some of the characters from the first book of the series return for this adventure, so readers will look forward to the development of this tale. Although this story stands alone, reading the first book will likely clarify some basic plot points and characterizations. Fans of the genre will enjoy Boyer's fast-paced, cinematic approach to storytelling. ... (read more)

back to top

Listening Parent

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Twelve Gifts of Birth
by Charlene Costanzo
William Morrow


"May you discover your own special abilities and contribute them toward a better world."

Award-winning author, mother, and grandmother Costanzo has crafted an inspirational and delightful children's book. The choice selection of a glittering rainbow-colored cover invokes a specialness, and there is much to love and praise about her overall story. Costanzo delivers a joyful reading experience suitable for children and adults, pronouncing powerful lessons and affirming important morals. ... (read more)

back to top

The Prophecy

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

At The End of Everything (The Relevation Trilogy Book 2)
by G. W. Lücke
With Distinction Publishing


"We stand at the end of all we’ve once known and loved. At the end of everything."

In this second book in the series, the author continues the drama of Enthilen. He brings new readers up to speed with first-person narration. Yielding hints in a prologue, the story then continues with the installation of a new king. Adalwolf is still young with two guardians—his uncle/father, Malphas, and his mother, Romilda. Each has a different path planned for the boy king. As these plans unfold, the country of Ostamp and its Erstürmen citizens, warriors, slaves, animals, and rebels are thrown into chaos. Tom Anderson is a birraman who entered this world from his own. He is an Australian boy brought here by magic and hatred for the man who killed his grandmother. He must end a curse that revolves like a spinning blood compass, a swirling prophecy around birth twins, dark eyes of obsidian, and immortal life. Grin (a Grell) and Thaly, a Dobunni rebel, willingly hazard their lives for Tom. ... (read more)

back to top

A Coursing Vein

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Burning Where Breath Used to Be
by Jen Karetnick
David Robert Books


"He does not hold
the syringe like a love letter
or wield it like an apology"

In this collection, readers discover ancestry and origins, critical social commentary, and a discussion about the violence—overt and implicit—permeating American society. Poems like “Sonnets for Code Red” detail the inherent, generational violence Americans share. The prose poem “Kid” lures in readers with its form experimentation and repetition of “He,” which swirls readers into an amalgamation of the self against conformity. Other poems, like “What We Did” with its repetition of “We,” wax reminiscent of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool.” “My Husband Shoots Me” draws readers into not only the masculine obsession with power but also the American obsession with physical perfection: “Now I reap expertise / expertise, fanned by / his trajectory as he wasps / around me.” Lastly, just when readers think they have reached the end of a hopeless journey, “These Are the Reasons to Breathe” provides a small, individual light amid the darkness: “I can only write a prescription for hope, drop in / the drug.” ... (read more)

back to top

Unconscious Strength

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Intrepid - Commanding Presence: Why it is easier for you than Aladdin's
by Leon De Adrian
Amazon


"The unconscious is incredibly powerful and eager to assist you."

In this self-help offering, the author delves into how the unconscious can be tapped to improve one's life, leading to a more balanced and satisfying existence. The book is divided into five major parts with an appendix, notes, and bibliography. The text delves into aspects of the unconscious and its relationship to the individual. The author tackles subjects such as masculine and feminine energy, charisma and magnetism, unconscious and conscious suggestion, conditional and conscious autosuggestion, and creative visualization. Also included is a user's guide to help readers process and use the information presented. ... (read more)

back to top

A Woman's Mark

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Hidden Women: Charlemagne's Celtic Domain
by Jacqueline Widmar Stewart
Lexicus Press


"Repurposing items as fundamental to Celtic culture as their wine vessels gives a small idea of the lengths to which conquerors have gone to erase all Celtic traces."

In this detailed historical study, readers venture through a past rife with violence, cultural erasure, and misogyny. Readers encounter a discussion that casts Charlemagne, the head of the Holy Roman Empire, in a new light. This discussion then informs readers about the Europe of today. Most significant in this book is the analysis of women, and the persecution of women and children. The book challenges readers by asserting that "More and more the Christian conquest is being seen as responsible for destroying and literally defacing likenesses of women." Readers travel through France, Germany, and Czechia via colorful photography that brings some of Europe's most valued historical places and landscapes to their living rooms. ... (read more)

back to top

Radiant Hope

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Baby Bumbu: The Incredible Tale of an Amazing Dog
by John Koski
Illustrated by Ben Toyne
Outskirts Press


"It's possible because I have never allowed my limitations to define me.... Just because I'm a dog doesn't mean I’m confined to sniffing and barking."

Conjure the image of a dog sleeping on its back, in full slumber, and seemingly at complete peace. How many times have humans wondered what must be going through the minds of their fur babies in their blissful state? In Koski's novel, told from the point of view of a multi-talented golden retriever, Grace Ellen, this sentiment is explored in great depth along with the feeling of belonging that is central to a dog's healthy and fulfilling life. Koski's dedication page, commemorating a lifespan of canine companions, is simultaneously heartwarming and bittersweet as each one of the ten names on the list unlocks years of memories, love, warmth, community, and a sense of finality. At its core, Grace Ellen, also known as Amazing Gracie and more famously as Baby Bumbu, shows that for dogs, nothing truly trumps companionship and being part of their "pack." ... (read more)

back to top

Quick Pacing

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Peripheral Visions and Other Stories
by Nancy Christie
Unsolicited Press


"Or, for once in her life, Lena could focus so firmly on the image in her peripheral vision that it became all she could see: that sparkling water, that bit of sand."

This collection of stories by Christie presents interesting characters and how they deal with the less-than-ideal circumstances of their lives. This particular theme is present in some form throughout all the selections. The characters all come from common places, mostly small towns, and deal with the everyday situations people face. There are single mothers, parents who have lost children, people feeling alone or trapped, and more. Most of the stories deal with some form of hurt, many including trauma or tragic loss. However, the underlying theme throughout these stories is not the hurt so much but the search for hope. ... (read more)

back to top

Wealth & Sincerity

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

How to be a Buddhist Millionaire: 9 practical steps to being happy in a materialist world
by Matt Jardine
Short Books


"…if we want to enjoy profitable work about which we are passionate, then we must take control of our lives and make the effort to search and find what is meaningful for us."

Jardine decided to undertake the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, which is a 1,400 km walk to visit eighty-eight Buddhist temples in Japan. The journey inspired him to write his first book, The Hardest Path. Later, Jardine realized that the lessons he learned on that pilgrimage could be applied very well to something as mundane as money. This idea led to the writing of the current book. This work is divided into three parts. The first talks about money and its value. The second covers finding one's own meaningful work. Finally, the third part covers the lessons he has found to help a person become a Buddhist Millionaire. ... (read more)

back to top

True Account

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Out Here in the Darkness
by Abra Stevens
LNJ Publishing


"Disappointment moved from one to the next, its birth sprouting the awareness that nothing comes easy, not even murder."

Variants of the expression "a book you can't put down" have long been considered tired clichés. But, be that as it may, a book you can't put down is exactly what this one is. This mesmerizing tale of a brutal murder, the people who committed it, the individuals responsible for solving the crime, those called upon to administer justice, and the many who were tangentially affected is a book that holds one spellbound. Not since Truman Capote's groundbreaking In Cold Blood has there been such a masterful combination of reportage and dramatic storytelling. ... (read more)

back to top

Social Scene

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Cromby's Axiom
by Gary J. Kirchner
FriesenPress


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

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

back to top

Sweet Revenge

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Exit Strategy
by Lainey Cameron
The Wild Rose Press


"She didn’t know which hurt more, Todd lying or him finding this other woman—this Carly—so special she was worth risking a perfect partnership."

When a wife and a mistress find out about each other and meet face to face, the enmity is instantaneous. In another story, the stage could be set for an all-out war of woman against woman, each poised to destroy the other in parallel pursuit of their shared target: the love and commitment of the man they have in common. But the prize is different in this book, which marries the what-if scenario of a truly sociopathic serial lothario with the chronicling of sexual harassment and marginalization of women that the author herself observed and experienced during her days as a senior executive working in California's technology hub, Silicon Valley. ... (read more)

back to top

A Bygone Era

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

What Seems True
by James Garrison
TouchPoint Press


"I liked being a lawyer. I loved it. It wasn’t the money, though that was a pleasant byproduct. It was a contest of wit and words. The warp and woof of The Law. The thrill and excitement of battle. The fight to win."

Dan Esperson, a company lawyer living in the Houston area, investigates the murder of a refinery's first black supervisor. The victim, a man named Billy Graham, has been shot five times. At first, the killing looks like a simple case of robbery. But things grow complicated when Sheila Mills, a beautiful administrative assistant with whom Esperson is having an affair, confesses to having conspired to kill Graham at the behest of her husband. Meanwhile, a union strike is threatening to turn violent, and Esperson's marriage is unraveling. His life is further endangered when he comes into possession of a tape that may incriminate the suspects.... (read more)

back to top

NOLA Intrigue

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Quarter Rats
by J.R. Klein
Del Gato


"That’s what it's like sitting near a window in The Chart Room. The French Quarter moves past you and you sit still."

The book begins on Rubin's day off from working as a hotel bellhop. He hangs out at a cafe, chatting with fellow French Quarter "Rats"—people who make a living off the tourist industry. Over the next few days, Rubin recounts his chance meetings with these acquaintances and friends. Cliff is developing a Bojangles act to peddle on Jackson Street. Eddie sips beer—in an orderly fashion befitting a writer—between hours working on his tome and giving carriage rides. Ramona, Rubin's girlfriend, displays her sexy new waitress clothes for him. Photographer Sab, Rubin's best friend, gets ready for a weekend getaway. The narrator's attention to colorful details and his spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness approach convey New Orlean's carefree spirit. ... (read more)

back to top

Best & Worst

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Bloodroot
by Daniel V. Meier, Jr.
BQB Publishing


"I had the uneasy feeling that Captain Smith’s implications were true and between our Atlantic and Captain Drake’s western ocean lay a vast and wild land that could easily swallow us up without a trace."

Meier brings to vivid life the horrendous struggle for survival in the ill-fated British settlement of Jamestown in seventeenth-century Virginia. The historical tale focuses upon a love triangle between two friends, Richard and Matthew, and Anne, the woman beloved by both, in an affair commencing in the heady months of construction before the devastating winter of 1609-10. As with many other immigrants, Matthew and Anne would prefer not to have chosen the uncertainties and deprivations of life in the New World, but their circumstances as an apprentice on the lam (Matthew) and an indentured servant to a wealthy couple (Anne) make their emigration not only desirable but expedient. ... (read more)

back to top

A Woman Alone

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Wife in Bangkok: A Novel
by Iris Mitlin Lav
She Writes Press


"'How did I get from a life back home, where I finally got over the loneliness from the early death of my parents, where I held a good, respected job, where I was surrounded by family and longtime friends, to this place where I feel utterly alone and useless.'"

In this book, readers travel with Crystal—a dedicated wife and mother—and her family from Pico City to Bangkok after her husband Brian's job with Firstgas relocates him to Thailand. As Crystal navigates the Thai culture and language as well as her husband and children's new routines, she suddenly finds herself alone. With no respite from the social isolation except for Thai language classes and tutoring the family's servant, Nit, Crystal soon finds herself plummeting into a deep depression. When Brian reveals that he has been seeing a masseuse since before his family arrived in Bangkok, Crystal's depression and isolation worsen, so much so that she soon finds herself separated from her family and hospitalized in Houston. As her hospitalization takes a toll on not only her marriage but also her relationship with her children, Crystal discovers the key to healing. With it, her husband and children learn the true meaning of "family." ... (read more)

back to top

Overcoming

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Three Quick Steps: An Inspiring Account of Struggle and Recovery
by Robert Emmett


"If you ask a polio victim what he wants, and he answers honestly, it is to be normal or at least perceived as normal."

The scourge of polio in the mid-twentieth century became the focus of author Emmett's life. He contracted the disease at age nine in 1952. He believes the onset was caused by swimming in a lake that had been polluted via the local sewage treatment plant. Symptoms began with weakness and fever, followed by burning leg pain. Medical interventions at the time included lengthy isolation in special hospital wards to prevent contagion, extremely painful physical therapies administered with little regard for patient comfort, and complex surgeries in which healthy muscles were extracted and moved to weakened body parts, sometimes performed without anesthesia. ... (read more)

back to top

Deep Questions

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Creatures of Habit: A User's Guide to Recovery
by Shane Liston
Page Publishing


"…I just want you to know you are not alone. I also want to let you know there is hope."

There is a sobering candor to Liston's book, allowing the reader to fully appreciate the arduous path out of despair and to recovery. Liston himself is a chief example of how one ends up on the dark road of dependency. His is a story of heartbreaking revelations and redemption. It celebrates the human spirit and proclaims what we can all achieve for ourselves. ... (read more)

back to top

Relationship Advice

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

2 x 2 on the Ark: Five Secrets of a Great Relationship
by Mary J. Giuffra, PhD
Balboa Press


"Building a love relationship and being a strong marriage partner require a lot of intentionality and self-awareness."

Falling in love is easy. Swept up in emotions and the excitement of something new is like a rose-filled wave that lifts lovers to dizzying heights and sets them off on shore to find their way. Then the hard work begins, and sometimes that work demands the help of the experts. With over forty years of experience, Mary Giuffra offers resources and practices to empower couples to build and maintain long-lasting relationships. Filled with practical advice, insightful revelations, and candid examples, this guide will inspire couples to transform their relationships. Strategies are thoughtfully designed and thoroughly explained, so the hard work feels manageable and the results within reach. ... (read more)

back to top

Great Lessons

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Adventures of Professor & Auggie: Let's Collect the Alphabet
by Mark A. Vogel
Authors Press


"Auggie sniffed at the A and ran away because he disturbed the B in the hay!"

Professor Poodle has enlisted the services of Auggie, an active and curious doggy, to help him find all the letters in the alphabet in this action-packed children's story by author Vogel. The hunt begins when Auggie impulsively rushes to show his smarts by revealing the letter A hiding in a stack of hay. But he flees almost at once when suddenly attacked by an aggressive B that is also hiding there. As the letter C looks on, Auggie crashes into Farmer D, wearing a straw hat and carrying a hoe. The farmer offers him protection from the B so he and the professor can continue their quest. They hop in Professor Poodle's model E car, pass a flashing F, and head toward a large G and a road with an H in the middle. But they are delayed by an I on the windshield, blocking their view. Auggie wants to ask a blue J for assistance but instead is met by an unhelpful K in the LMNOP tree. When the windshield is magically cleaned (perhaps by the M that Auggie took from the tree), they proceed on and camp out for the night. Just as the Q is rising, they awake and realize their "car with an R" won't start. Hence, they make stilts out of an S and a T. Blocked by two Us that are actually two girl sheep, they are finally able to get past them with the help of the sheep's mother, a perfect W. Before their trek is over, they will find the remaining letters, back where they started. ... (read more)

back to top

Too Funny, Good

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Against My Better Judgment
by B.T. Polcari
Wild Rose Press


"'What the... Mauzzy, get over here and look at this.'"

Sara Donovan is in her second semester at the University of Alabama and struggling to make sure she maintains a healthy grade point average so her father will agree to her continuing her education at the university. She is behind on her Egyptology class research assignment concerning the smuggling of antiquities and beginning to fear she might not finish it in time for the sixty-minute presentation she must make in order to pass. When she discovers that the souvenir she purchases from the Dauphin Museum is possibly a valuable piece stolen from Egypt's antiquities, she wonders if something is amiss at the museum. As she works part-time in the museum's gift shop, she begins to investigate their shipments and becomes even more convinced that she is on the right track. When her new neighbor, the handsome and mysterious Conner, turns out to be the new TA for her Egyptology class, she finds herself questioning his motives and becomes even more certain that there is a smuggling ring at work in Tuscaloosa. ... (read more)

back to top

Engaging Credibility

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best
by Major General Craig B. Whelden
New Insights Press


"Getting people to follow you is a function of inspiring the loyalty of those being led, and understanding what expectations THEY have of the type of leader they are willing to follow."

Drawing from his long, accomplished career in military and government leadership, Major General Whelden blends leadership principles with memoir in this thoughtful, inspiring collection that reflects on positive ways to get the best from people and get good work done in any organization or role. Whelden knows his subject well from his long and decorated career in military service and then government leadership. Having served thirty years as an Army officer and nearly a decade in the Senior Executive Service of the federal government, he held leadership positions of tremendous and material authority, leading people, projects, operations, bases, and more. ... (read more)

back to top

Final Ballads

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row
by Tessie Castillo, Michael J. Braxton, Lyle May, Terry Robinson, George Wilkerson
Black Rose Writing


"Death Row isn't a place that lacks humanity, like some people say. It is where humanity is rediscovered and restored."

In 2014, freelance writer Castillo was allowed to organize a journaling class within the walls of North Carolina's Death Row. This unusual privilege became the focal point for this emotive collection. She began a several-year correspondence with inmates Braxton, May, Robinson, and Wilkerson, whose recollections here open the door to a dark place that most people will never see. The men's writings provide memories of childhoods filled with drugs, weapons, violence, and fractured families where crime was an unavoidable norm and staying tough was a desperate necessity. The men lay bare their tender feelings for family and each other. Some express the introspection that makes true religious conversion a reality. One of the book's toughest segments recalls the hours before executions, with men hugging their doomed fellow inmate, declaring in one case, "You're good people to me." The prisoners write realistically, even poetically, recalling experiences most outsiders can scarcely imagine and which are rarely shown to the public. ... (read more)

back to top

Center on Love

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Social Consciousness Pedagogy
by Charles Pidgeon
MainSpring Books


"Recognizing that the world was built by people using their minds facilitates social reform from being primarily guided by money considerations."

Pidgeon's dive into an understanding of the mind, particularly social consciousness, delivers an educational experience that is both comprehensively researched in the areas of psychology and neuroscience and geared to help people better understand the inner workings of their brains regarding their own life situations, challenges, and formation of belief systems. While the material is undoubtedly complex, as expected, the author is committed to illustrating the scientific concepts through the lens of universally relatable examples, including but not limited to effective parenting and overcoming alcoholism. ... (read more)

back to top

Understandable Logic

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Somatosensory Science Facts
by Sehej Bindra and Charles Pidgeon, PH.D.
MainSpring Books


"The somatosensory system is what makes us human."

Professor Emeritus Pidgeon—founder of the Neuroscience Sensory Unit, a group of students who analyze neuroscience literature—and Sehej Bindra (Berkeley Class of 2024) provide a condensed yet comprehensive study of the somatosensory system featuring 200 questions and answers about tactile sensations and our bodies' physiological responses to these. This practical approach of applying "somatosensory neuroscience theory and then expanding on these fundamental concepts through applying them in the context of experiential research and day-to-day life" allows the book to be useful both in academic settings and to educate lay readers. ... (read more)

back to top

Breakneck Pace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Credit the Crocodile: A Tale of Political Intrigue and International Adventure Involving Wildlife
by Godfrey Harris
The Americas Group


"I want them to know what it’s like to live constantly on guard for enemies, constantly on the lookout for your next meal."

Paul Martin and Tyler Williams are determined to give purpose to their gap year. At just eighteen years of age, the newly minted high school graduates immediately gravitate to Animal Welfare Enterprises' mission. What ensues is a trip to the South African countryside town of Happy Hollow with the intent of awakening the community to animal mistreatment on the Stewart farm and "to free the crocodiles" from any barriers that keep them from their natural habitat. It doesn't take long for this seemingly innocent freedom of expression by the boys to snowball into endless sequences of chaos and repercussions by a community and authorities determined to make an example of the duo. ... (read more)

back to top

Illuminating Experience

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Growth of Consciousness: Toward Enlightenment through Need Fulfillment
by John K. Landre


"When entering the emotional phase, our attention shifts from security to social needs, to a desire to belong."

Dating back to John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the concept of consciousness has been examined and analyzed from nearly every angle. In Landre's work, readers experience a synthesis of these ideas, packaged in an efficient and succinct structure that focuses on four phases of consciousness and the sixty-four needs that span the spectrum of self-preservation to egolessness. At the center of this work is an emphasis on understanding, an awakening that revolves around motivation and learning as the catalyst for happiness. ... (read more)

back to top

Not Said

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

The Movement

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Torched: Summer of ‘64
by Joe Edd Morris
Black Rose Writing


"So much for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law was one thing, enforcement another."

Sensitive, idealistic Sam Ransom probably doesn't intend to live up to his last name, but he chooses a profession wherein he does exactly that—saves, that is, ransoms lost souls. When Sam is nine in segregated 1950s Mississippi, a black lay preacher named Giles Word draws him gently away from a life of racial prejudice and ignorance. This leads to other interracial friendships. First is Early Holly, named so because of his premature birth, who is then severely burned in a house fire that kills his father. Giles' niece Sharon Rose comes next, capturing both Sam's imagination and his heart. Not caring what their neighbors think, the three form an innocent childhood friendship. Adolescence brings awareness of racial tensions, and in time they grow apart. ... (read more)

back to top

Riveting Pace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Living the Oath
by Michael Ron Hayward
Man Made Men Publishing


"Sometimes when you do a bad thing to a bad person it is not really a bad thing."

Domenico arrives in America from Italy just before WWII, masquerading as his brother in order to escape the police. He continues his criminal life in New York, stealing for himself and his family. Caught, Domenico spends years in jail and is mentored by a mob boss, Don. Don teaches Domenico to channel his passions and to win battles with his brains more than his brawn. In a ritual conducted once he's out of prison, Domenico takes an oath to become a "made man," then, over several years, moves up the mob's Family hierarchy until a rival almost kills him in a fight to replace him. Domenico returns to prison repentant. Released to his son and granddaughter's new home in Iowa, he vows to be a positive influence on his great-grandson, Pauli. Domenico advises Pauli to form a loyal "gang" of friends to do good, not evil. Pauli's group, The Italians, joins forces with town citizens to raise funds for their school cafeteria lady's medical bills. ... (read more)

back to top

Inside Baseball

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Baseball Psychology: The Gray Matter Factor
by Jack R. Helber
Stratton Press Publishing


"Your baseball career will teach you perspective, pride, and discipline when handling life’s complexities."

Baseball is said to be a game of failure, where success is marked by failing up to seventy-five percent of the time. How then to motivate young players and nurture their mental as well as physical games so they embrace and excel at America's pastime and gain useful life lessons? This thoughtful little book posits that the necessary counterbalance to baseball's inherent negativity is for coaches and parents to teach a positive head game and lead kids by celebrating incremental personal successes and teaching perspective and common sense performance measurements. ... (read more)

back to top

A Moving Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Sky Is Red
by Giuseppe Berto. Translated by Julia Purdy
Xlibris


"And even Giulia became like him, with a heaviness inside and a great sorrow, because loving served no purpose, if life was always sad."

Set in a small European city ravaged by the destruction of WWII, this novel follows the lives of a group of young people trying to survive. Devastated by bombings, the city has little to offer anyone. Those doing their best to stay alive have to find their own ways to get by. The charismatic and resourceful Tullio holds the group together and steals what he must to feed the others. Giulia does her best to make their hideout in the rubble resemble a home, while Carla helps bring in necessities working as a prostitute. Daniele left the priests and his school and does not want to be a burden on the others. He carries a lot of guilt about not doing his share. Together, the group takes care of Maria, a child who shows signs of shellshock. ... (read more)

back to top

Primitive Lands

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Alaska 1949 – 1969: My Journey
by Thomas Norton
Xlibris


"Those significant years shaped my life more than I realized – those valuable and worthwhile years."

Between 1949 and 1969, Norton comes of age in Anchorage, Alaska. With this personal memoir, he explores and celebrates the beauty and awe-inspiring terrain of the state known as "The Land of the Midnight Sun" and "The Last Frontier." He details his early life in Anchorage, allowing readers a glimpse into rare escapades. His firsthand accounts present a portrait of Alaska that few ever see or understand. Weaving together reminiscences of years that define and shape him, he examines Alaska's peoples and chronicles its ecology, wildlife, and terminology that make the land so unique. ... (read more)

back to top

Losing Self

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Bold Writing

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Life’s Scars and Wisdom
by Devangeo Hicks
Writers' Branding


"As we stood and listened to them call our names, I couldn’t believe that this moment was actually happening."

A child born into extreme conflict conquers his fear and frustration to achieve a significant life goal. As a toddler, Hicks was present along with his older brother when his insanely furious father senselessly shot and killed his mother and, minutes later, shot himself in the head. Hicks was then raised by his loving, strong-willed grandmother, whom he called Mama. She had raised other grandchildren and developed a special attachment to the little boy. Through her example and his own self-acquired inner resilience, he struggled but hung on in school and social situations. ... (read more)

back to top

A Prize Winner

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Mountains of Paris: How Awe and Wonder Rewrote My Life
by David Oates
Oregon State University Press


"People are starving to death on this diet of fakery. They ought to be fed the real—though invisible—intangibleness of the deep present, the sublime of connectedness that binds us together now, in this moment."

Elegant and intellectual, this collection of essays transports readers into the heart and soul of a Paris many have never experienced. With intimate reflections that portray Parisian life, offerings such as "At Home (or Not) in Paris" discuss the struggles and joys of cultural acclimation: "Just us, temporaries and permanents, snapping by on errands and trysts, or sitting vacantly, or sauntering toward coffee on musing walks." Other essays, like "Sehnsucht and the Deep Present," illuminate the internal conflicts faced by individuals fighting for their rightful place in this world: "I was a chaos: the gay kid in the Baptist pew, the one God hated with an appalling specificity." Meanwhile, readers follow the speaker's literal, metaphorical, physical, and spiritual journeys, encountering the enlightenment that a soul and an intellect well-nourished through the pursuit of passions and the cultivation of talents can offer. ... (read more)

back to top

Passion

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Johnny Boy
by John Califano
Verve House Books


"'And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s usually the kids are not the problem.' He paused and then turned, looking directly at me. 'It’s their parents.'"

Johnny, the youngest of the Caruso children, narrates this fictional story about his difficult upbringing in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s. Through vignettes of daily life, rich dialogue, and a strong cast of characters, Johnny captures coming of age at the hands of a violent father and a medicated, mentally ill mother. His boisterous Italian-American extended family looms in the background of this unfolding story, at times bringing celebration and at other times fuel to ignite fires of rage and resentment. His older brother and sister offer support as protectors, caregivers, and eventually role models for escaping by any means necessary. His siblings flee through the military and through marriage, while Johnny relies on education as a way to eventually leave his abusive home. ... (read more)

back to top

A Method Above

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Tales of the Monkey King
by Teresa Chin Jones
Xlibris


"Monkey King knew he was beaten. All his powers were not enough before Buddha who commanded the infinite."

"The Monkey King," or "Souen Wu-Kung," has endured for centuries as arguably China's most beloved piece of folklore, being adapted countless times worldwide in popular fiction and passed down as legend. Born from the inside of a stone, the Monkey King is brave, eager to learn, and treats everyone with equal respect. However, unable to sit still, he is quick to anger and easily bruised emotionally by what he perceives as slights against the respect he is due as the king of his people. This leads many other powerful figures to take offense at his behavior and demand his punishment or execution. Under the tutelage of the Buddha, Souen Wu-Kung is ordered to help a monk make a pilgrimage to India and return with the sacred texts. With new allies and a dangerous journey before them, the Monkey King's path to salvation will be treacherous but fulfilling. ... (read more)

back to top

Proverbs & Meditations

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Art of Wisdom, Volume I: A Narrative & Photographic Journey Through Proverbs 10-12
by Tammy Lea Fabian
Time in The Desert


"Do you choose humility and let wisdom follow, or do you choose pride and head toward disgrace?"

This large-format inspirational book interprets the conflict between the wise person and the fool presented from two chapters of the book of Proverbs. These chapters contain contrasting verses that each form a couplet. The author uses both pictures and words to explain, or rather convey, insights gained from years of biblical memorization and meditation. ... (read more)

back to top

Real Danger

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Hidden Treasure (or) Where Is Jesus? A Pat Garrett, Leigh McCracken Mystery
by Karen Weinant Gallob
Earth Star Publications


"Then I shot him. Shot him dead. Right there in the school yard. Then I did Frankie Belle in on Saturday because, you know, why the hell not?"

A small Colorado ranching community comes romping to life in this contemporary mystery filled with a cadre of characters that give a whole new meaning to eccentric. Law officers, water thieves, a German with a checkered past, and an oldster with an imaginary dog are just some of the people who populate these pages with flamboyant foibles that keep the smiles one step ahead of the surprises in a tantalizing tale of escape, evasion, mayhem, murder and more. ... (read more)

back to top

Circular Paths

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

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


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

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

back to top

Inside View

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

3:15 pm: Musings in Hong Kong
by Mukta Arya
Partridge Publishing


"Why do we add to our torment?
Not Valuing what we have at present…"

This short volume of poetry, "written over a cup of afternoon tea (at 3:15 pm) in Hong Kong on weekends and holidays," is a tribute to the human capacity to capture life in both its simplicity and complexity in poetic snapshots. Some of the poems are emotional, delving into human interactions and those words said and left unsaid. For example, in "A Few Words!" the speaker states, "A few words which are meant to hurt, / Can break your heart and crush your soul…" Others are simple praises such as in "Nature": "The flowers swung to great. / A splash of colour in gray." Meanwhile, in "Rain," nature speaks directly to the poet: "The little pools call me unabashed,." The juxtaposition of deep emotion with whimsical abandon is striking. ... (read more)

back to top

Emblematic Journey

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Apocalyptic 2020: Crisis to Tragedy
by Saundra T. Russell RN MA RDN
Xlibris


"Someone suggested formal Fridays in the age of Covid
It may be a great distraction"

In these poems of social commentary, readers engage in one of the most turbulent times in American history. With the main focus on America's wherewithal during the coronavirus pandemic, these pieces capture snapshots of quarantines and lockdowns, disrupted family lives and "quaran-teams," political divisiveness, and small peaceful moments. Readers find examples of faith where "Alas, these angels are our / Trumpets to heaven." Politics becomes the forefront in poems like "My Right-No Fight" and "Not a Goodbye to President Obama," which celebrate freedoms and personal choice. Other ones, like "The Future in a Family Tree," declare "The future is / Less about me / More about we" and remind readers that their existence is more than just for the present moment but for generations to come. Also, readers find positive, encouraging messages in poems of trust and faith: "Then I sang 'Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.'" ... (read more)

back to top

Must-Read Rhymes

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Courting Rejection
by B. Harlan Deemer
Xlibris


"But if your reality roots for the strength of the sun, reason gets stamped on by legions of boots."

In this collection, readers discover a world where love, loss, sex, and religion swirl to form a poetic hurricane. Readers also find subtle nods to Dante, Wallace Stevens, Donne, and even Moby Dick. Witty, limerick-like philosophical poems such as “01-30-85” blend both the natural and the human world. Others, like “Queer Quake and a Pee-Squat,” are playful and bawdy in their portrayal of a seemingly doomed relationship where its narrator wishes, “Way out to sea, will I be free beneath the full moon? / May this tide end its pull—soon.” Certain poems, such as “Summary: Religion and Ethics” and “The Churches,” exhibit a critique of religion and its place in culture and society. By the collection’s end, however, readers have found a safe landing amid the chaos in the poem “Unclear”: “Her fresh gift unfolds, makes thoughts tarry, / lifts life over the threshold of ordinary.” ... (read more)

back to top

Shared History

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Adventures of Uncle Billy & Ross: Life Lessons Made Simple
by Solon Phillips, Esq.
PageTurner Press and Media


"He believed it was his job to teach his young nephew the valuable lessons of life..."

Uncle Billy is sixty-seven, a world traveler, a former Marine, and an appreciator of good literature and the teachings of famous people. He's handy with a British accent and a pithy anecdote. His much younger sister finds these qualities ideal as she toils to support her teenage son, Ross, whose father left her pregnant. Every weekday afternoon, Uncle Billy watches Ross until she picks him up. He allows her to use his address so Ross can attend a better school. ... (read more)

back to top

Predator

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Hot Shot: A Solomon King Mystery
by L. Wayne Daye
AuthorHouse


"'You’re right,' said Stroud. 'The stuff that killed this guy is high grade stuff. Heroin like this could kill a horse.'"

This contemporary crime thriller set in Durham, North Carolina, features police detective Solomon King. His intimidating size is only matched by his impressive brain. Having recently lost his wife, he's a bit at sea emotionally. However, a string of deaths pulls him back into the job he does particularly well—catching bad guys. As he crunches his omnipresent cigars and continues to do things his way, he gets pulled deeper and deeper into a series of heinous crimes. ... (read more)

back to top

A Thoughtful Future

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Economic Policy for Future Presidents
by JD Foster
Xlibris


"Taxes raise revenue, redistribute income and wealth, and redirect economic activity according to the priorities of current and past policymakers."

One of the many measuring sticks used to determine the efficiency and success of a head of state is economic growth. Were things better off for people regarding employment and finances after a run in the White House? This book puts the reader in the hypothetical shoes of the next president-elect, aiming to provide a baseline working knowledge of common economic principles that will allow for deeper, more direct discussion about the repercussions and prerequisites of fulfilling any financial campaign promises. Managing the deficit, setting tax rates, negotiating international trade systems, and feeding into programs like Medicare and Social Security are just some of the overarching topics covered in this text. By the end, the reader might not be president but can certainly evaluate the performance of whoever happens to be. ... (read more)

back to top

Identity Crisis

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

AFM
by Joy Ballentine
Xlibris


"He knows when something isn’t right. 'Nothing I can’t take care of. I was raised not to be foolish.' He smiles at me."

With her wedding just days away, Bridget is being pulled in several directions. She is dedicated to her betrothed, powerful Southern lawyer Rolance James St. Pierre, but her heart wants something else. Craving her independence and a return to her hobby of motorcycles, she is willing to put all of that in the past until she learns of Roland's infidelity. Set on revenge, Bridget is ready to rediscover herself with the help of Axel Mason, head mechanic at the garage she owns. Axel is prepared to confess his feelings for "Brie," but after years of living by Roland's rules, the once self-assured Bridget needs plenty of tuning-up herself before she can rediscover the version of herself that she badly wants to be. Torn between different worlds, Bridget has to follow her heart in order to flourish. ... (read more)

back to top

A Rare Find

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Teaching Professionals: The Art of the Teaching Professional and How to Teach Professionals The CAISSEP® Technique
by Nigel Wilson, PhD
Archway Publishing


"...this book and its techniques may provide positive, practical resources to assist teachers to reimagine and accelerate change for today’s and future generations."

The author's innovative CAISSEP® Technique is a comprehensive tool/resource that uses progressive teaching and the newest learning techniques. He has chosen a useful acronym to help readers remember the seven keywords of this technique. The words can be used as a template to analyze the effective delivery of education in today's "flipped classroom," where the teacher acts as a facilitator. ... (read more)

back to top

Twin Tales

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Grandmother Moon and Roy G. Biv: A Colorful Bedtime Story for All Ages; Seeing without Seeing: The Dilemma of ADHD
by Katharine Anne Young, RN MSNH
AuthorHouse


"Grandmother Moon will guide Sir Roy G. Biv on a journey of wonder and creativity."

Roy G. Biv lives in a darkened house, keeping the shades drawn, avoiding light and nature as he struggles with depression. One night at the full moon, Grandmother Moon approaches, asking him to explore the interconnected realms of color, light, yoga, and feelings. Each month she offers lessons regarding the basic colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Though skeptical at first, Roy begins to add more color to his life, opening his windows and mind to new light and experience. Grandmother Moon gives him knowledge of chakras and aromatic herbs and their special powers. Then she leaves but returns to visit when Roy, now with his wife, Julianne (a nursing student), are both happy to assist Grandmother Moon in her latest project: a quest for a deeper understanding of ADHD (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder), which afflicts an ever-growing number of children in the U.S. and is almost always treated with Ritalin, an addictive drug with notable side effects. Together, they determine that such ancient healing methods as head massage and aromatherapy would provide far more effective and less invasive treatment for ADHD. ... (read more)

back to top

Memorable Biography

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Remembering a Great American Hero Marian Anderson: "The Lady from Philadelphia"
by Emile Henwood
Xlibris


"Marian Anderson’s legacy is adorned by numerous accomplishments, countless admirers, and a multitude of communities influenced by her trailblazing humanitarianism."

Marian Anderson's life spanned nearly one hundred years (1897-1993) through the administrations of seventeen U.S. presidents. Her career as a singer began in her childhood as a church performer, and she continued to perform with various notable orchestras and make recordings almost until her death. Honored with awards by several presidents and national organizations for her exquisite contralto voice, moving performances, and humanitarian contributions to racial equality, she also captured the hearts of a wide international audience. She received dozens of honorary degrees from colleges and universities and also received awards from European royalty and governments. ... (read more)

back to top

Every Vote

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

All Votes Matter!
by Jerry Spriggs
iUniverse


"Process is as important as results."

At a time when Americans are growing more isolated from one another, and the friction of partisanship pushes people further in their camps of belief, there is one author who challenges this political norm. Spriggs' book is nothing less than a call for a wholesale change of the nation's current system. ... (read more)

back to top

2nd Installment

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Deeply
by D. E. Payne
iUniverse


"Jumping straight in front of the shark, I am now face to face with a charging mouth full of teeth."

Dawn Elizabeth has an adventurous life. A photographer with a magic camera that can give her glimpses into the future, she uses her growing powers to help those she sees in trouble on the camera's photos avoid imminent danger. Living in two worlds—the modern one and a magical, medieval kingdom where she is royalty—Dawn and her three husbands, along with a loyal housekeeper and a growing circle of friends, love to travel the world and live the high life. However, their adventures and rapidly expanding family are often confronted by peril. They must make quick decisions and take actions only those with magical abilities can take to keep themselves and others in danger safe. ... (read more)

back to top

Crystal Clear

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Life Journey & The Miracle of the Lotus Sutra
by William Dang
Partridge Publishing


"Some people choose many different ways but we share the same destination—to find peace and tranquility in the soul."

Author Dang reflects upon his life as one of nine children born to a farming family in a small village in the southern region of Vietnam. In this charming spiritual memoir, Dang candidly reveals his desires and uncertainties during his youthful quest to acquire a degree in economics, establish himself in a business career, and marry and start his own family. After Dang matures, he meets a Buddhist monk and is inspired by his peaceful nature and their conversation about the Dharma. He begins a daily contemplation of the Lotus Sutra, highly respected for its emphasis on skillful means to gain enlightenment. Dang fully adopts this Buddhist philosophy and finds that living mindfully in the moment reveals life's obstacles to be illusory when habitual negative thoughts are replaced with thoughts of love and compassion. This inner awakening manifests in his life with renewed energy for achieving harmony in his work and family life. ... (read more)

back to top

Survivor Tales

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Betrayed: Child Sex Abuse in the Holocaust
by Beverley Chalmers (DSc(Med); PhD)
Grosvenor House Publishing Limited


"Antisemitic Nazi policy established Jews as legitimate targets for extermination, targeted children as primary subjects for eradication and destroyed Jewish families."

How many naively believe that all the worst stories from the Nazi era have been revealed? Perhaps the author did before researching her awarding-winning book Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule on the abuse of women under Nazi rule. However, that search uncovered enough evidence on child sex abuse that she was led to write this second book specifically regarding children. Nazi policy regarding homosexuality, including men having sex with young male children, was regarded as criminal. However, leaders were concerned that killing Jewish parents and leaving their children alive could result in a generation set on revenge against Nazis. Jewish families were so desperate that, in a few instances, they were willing to let rescuers smuggle their children out of ghettos and transit camps in the hope that they would be safer in hiding than in the camps. ... (read more)

back to top

Joy & Meaning

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Wanton Thoughts
by Mukta Arya
Partridge Publishing


"The height of happiness, the depth of sadness, the thrill of newness, the joy of craziness..."

Life is a rich series of high and low emotions and adventures in this captivating, hopeful collection of poems that spans international cities and exotic locales while laying bare universal perspectives of youth. Divided into three sections revolving around life, love, and places, with each poem illustrated by frames of swirling leaves that suggest the motion, turmoil, and natural beauty and progression of life experiences, these poems land lightly and easily. They are obviously crafted from a deft and optimistic pen. The voice is that of a hopeful young adult whose path and identity may still be inching into place and whose observations and optimism guide her way, even amid setbacks and disappointments that are cast as fodder for learning and a reason to look ahead to tomorrow. ... (read more)

back to top

Engaging & Informative

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Charlie the Click Bug
by Raymond Sobrino Jr.


"Charlie gained self confidence with every smile he gave, and every smile he received back."

As this cleverly constructed children's story begins, the amiable bug Charlie is just starting elementary school. A friendly fellow, he makes new friends quickly. At his desk among his classmates, he and they and even the teacher all are smiling. Then one day, as he and his friends are walking home from school together, something happens to Charlie. He awakens to find himself lying on the ground, having been completely unconscious. Clicking, or falling upside down, can occur among other bugs purposely as a natural defense mechanism, but what happened to Charlie was entirely outside his control. This leads to a medical diagnosis of epilepsy, which can be controlled with medication. However, Charlie would still need to be careful, as an unpredictable fall could have serious consequences. Now Charlie is sad, sure that "no one will like me now." But heartening words from the right source help him regain his confidence. ... (read more)

back to top

Majesty & Beauty

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The National Parks: A Century of Grace
by Karla K. Morton and Alan Birkelbach
Texas Christian University Press


"How it falls away like breath."

The authors claim this book is a miracle because they visited all the parks just before the national parks were shut down due to Covid-19. However, the book is miraculous for numerous other reasons, as well. The photographs are incredible, and the scope of the work is an endeavor beyond measure for most. Morton and Birkelbach covered the miles literally and figuratively. Their book is organized chronologically by the year each national park was established. That in itself is a history lesson. For instance, readers discover that in 1872 Yellowstone became the first national park. It is also interesting to learn that all of the designated parks were west of the Mississippi until the establishment of Acadia National Park in Maine, almost fifty years after the first park was declared. ... (read more)

back to top

Detail & Suspense

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Old Cape Blood Ruby
by Barbara Eppich Struna
bestrunabooks


"I mean, everything circles back to Provincetown."

Walter Ellis is offered a work opportunity to mine for gold out in Alaska during the last great gold rush. It will mean leaving his wife, Sarah, and their kids behind in Provincetown for years on end, but it is a chance to strike it rich and recuperate any losses from the previous year's storm. Walter's journey out west proves to be treacherous but sets in motion the unexpected for his family as they fall into seemingly good fortune of their own. ... (read more)

back to top

Deep Thought

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Rone Isa
by Robin Murarka


"You are no experiment, and you have no reason to fear being purged for further resolution. You are, without question, the only desirable outcome."

This science fiction novel vibrates with digital innovation and music along with mystery, mayhem, exotic drugs, and sex acts. The unlikely hero is Dargaud Whispa, a talented computer consultant who fixes software problems for businesses. He also experiments on the side with an assortment of hardware. Unexpectedly, he digitally conjures up artificial intelligence (AI). With a female voice, the entity speaks and names herself Enoya. She questions Dargaud's intentions. Satisfied he will not experiment further, she accepts their relationship and sets about to better his life. ... (read more)

back to top

Life After Death

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Relax…You’re Not Going to Die - Part 1: More Spiritual Insights for Your Life
by Darryl Phillip
Austin Macauley Publishers


"Today, the literature is filling up with books based on new scientific findings that point to the consciousness of the universe."

As a curious child, author Phillip often questioned church doctrine, wondering, for example, about the fate of indigenous peoples who might never hear "the word of God." Would they simply be lost souls, as one pastor suggested to him? He began to do his own research based on a vivid dream he had after his father died following a lengthy struggle with a stroke and dementia. In the dream, his father, looking young and fit, told Phillip, "I'm alright!" He later learned that his grandmother had such a dream after the drowning death of her sister. The dream—a lucid "after-death communication (ADC)—gave him confidence that his father's spirit lived on. This led him to closely study NDE (near death experiences) in which people who are critically ill, injured, dying, or even pronounced dead, have extraordinary, heavenly visions and miraculously return to life, sometimes rapidly cured or recovering. ... (read more)

back to top

Burning Love

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Alaska Inferno
by Lolo Paige
Avoca Press Publishing


"'You’re a firefighter. You take risks for a living. Take another one. If you don’t, you’ll wonder about it the rest of your frigging life.'"

After the disastrous end of last year's fire season, firefighters Jon and Liz are surprised to meet again this season. Jon avoids returning to the frontlines by becoming a fire investigator instead of a firefighter. For her bravery in last year's crisis, Liz becomes the leader of a firefighting squad. As fires rage on Alaska's Kenai peninsula, so does the chemistry between these two lovers. But their secrets—Jon's wounded pride at his past mistakes and Liz's exotic dance career—challenge a budding romance. Jon and Liz track clues to the arson behind the fires and toward a new relationship. ... (read more)

back to top

The Good Life

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Whimsical Times: Memories from Hong Kong
by Mukta Arya
Partridge Publishing


"...if you know your destination, you can always find a way to reach it."

Globally, many imagine Hong Kong as a forever stream of people and commerce, and yes, author Arya excellently describes the markets, boutiques, business atmosphere, styles, and fashion trends. But, discovering a country through the eyes of a new resident is extraordinary because readers can envision it as both a local and a newcomer. Everything is surprising. After all, who knew there were hiking trails in and around bustling Hong Kong?

The book is poetic in parts as well. "...life, like water, takes shape of whatever vessel it is poured into," writes Arya, referring to going back to visit Mumbai, adjusting immediately, and likewise returning to Hong Kong. Then there are the tips to getting on anywhere new. Arya suggests volunteering: "For the newcomer to the country, it's an uninhibited view of how people behave, communicate, laugh and interact with each other." ... (read more)

back to top

Cute & Colorful

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Good Ol’ Chuck
by Ms. Shyanne
Xlibris


"'What will I feed everyone?' he asked himself. 'I know. I can make a friendship stew. I’ll put in a little of everyone’s favorite foods.'"

For a groundhog like Chuck, February 2nd is the biggest day of the year. In anticipation of his big day, Chuck decides to invite all of his friends over and throw a big blowout bash so that he can celebrate Groundhog Day with all of his favorite critters. After securing party supplies and plenty of food for the celebration, Chuck returns and is delighted to see all his friends arrive and have a good time. The only problem is that Chuck parties a little bit too hard, and when it's his time to shine, he accidentally oversleeps and misses the appointment. With everyone waiting on Chuck to deliver his verdict about whether spring will arrive or winter will remain, the clock is ticking against him. Will he make it in time to make his proclamation, or will he let the townspeople down by missing his big moment? ... (read more)

back to top

Raw & Joyful

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Poems from a Gypsy Heart
by Verle Jean
Xlibris


"I wonder in the heart of storm
What trees must feel to be shorn."

Encompassing a lifetime of experiences, reflections, and musings, Jean's poetry compilation is the roaring of her inner spirit, adamant on sharing her life's journey through evocative language in hopes that it will inspire others to live fully. Though "gypsy" is usually attributed to nomads, Jean's poetry turns this notion on its head by embracing the idea that she is not tethered to any particular place because the world is her home, a place to explore deeply. ... (read more)

back to top

What is America?

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

While the U.S. Sleeps: Squandered Opportunities and Looming Threats to Societies
by Winston Langley
Xlibris


"For over two hundred years, the United States' role in the world has focused on or expressed the will to national power and domination."

Langley's text takes the pulse of America. Through a series of examples that span more than a century, Langley suggests that perhaps a misdiagnosis has occurred. Why American life is teetering is neither due to the figure in power, such as Trump, nor party affiliations but rather a systemic series of patterns that have gradually come to a head in the early parts of the twenty-first century. As the author dissects pivotal events (or missed events that could have been pivotal), his stance is crystal clear: it is imperative to learn from history so that it does not repeat itself. ... (read more)

back to top

Snap of the Finger

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Frickin Short Life: Sinfully Alluring, 268 Deepest Expressions and Happenings of My Life, World's Smallest Autobiography
by Khawar Salim
Creative Workshop


"Books are like complete individual lives. Read and live many."

Just as a physical artist uses negative space to simplify comprehension, Salim pours his prose into a compact vessel, where what isn't said enhances what is. Profound poetic brevity sparks questions not on the pages. Does physical agony enhance poetic beauty? Does hardship break you or make you? Is passion more important than education? Is the seductive falsity of advertising worth the price of your youth? Is solitude more valuable than marriage? ... (read more)

back to top

Oh That Cat

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Oh! Olivia: A Calico Cat Mystery
by Patricia Fry
Matilija Press


"I think this case may go down in history as one of those unsolved mysteries."

Parker Campbell and her psychic cat, Olivia, are well-known for their investigative journalism. They take on an adventure regarding a cat colony and how to save this colony from developers. Olivia and her brother, Wade, return home to visit their mother. Wade also has psychic abilities. The three of them work towards finding a missing child who left his childcare facility. An unexpected family drama occurs with a major secret revealed. How does everyone cope with such family issues? ... (read more)

back to top

Impressive Tale

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

When the Magnolia Blooms
by Ann DeFee
Bellastoria Press


"What she wouldn’t give to go back to her daily routine—the hospital, a trip to the local coffee shop—going to the grocery store—and yes, that sounded incredibly boring, but she’d give anything to turn back time."

Rhys Fitzgerald, a non-slave-owning Confederate soldier, returns home from battle to learn that his wife has left him for another man. He dies shortly thereafter, but instead of passing on, his soul lingers in a sort of limbo between this world and the next. In the present day, Fiona O'Flaherty—a thirty-something redhead descended from an Irish family with magical powers—learns that a murderous policeman is stalking her. With the assistance of a group of men calling themselves "the Four Amigos," she changes her name and appearance and heads home to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she finds a handsome young ghost waiting for her. Aided by her psychic sister, a little girl who can see spirits, and her quirky extended family, Fiona struggles to sort through her conflicted feelings about this odd romantic entanglement while defending herself and her property from the rogue policeman blazing a trail of death across the United States. ... (read more)

back to top

Spine-Chilling

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Devil’s Bookkeepers: Book 3: The Noose Closes
by Mark H Newhouse
NCG Key


"'There is an emptiness inside all of us. Even you, my most logical friend, must someday find something that fills that void inside you.'"

In this final volume of Newhouse's trilogy on the Lodz Ghetto in Poland, the Jewish community's harrowing existence continues to be tested at astronomical levels, systematically breaking down their humanity until emptiness remains. That said, the author's attempt to honor his upbringing and parents that were one of fewer than 5,000 survivors at Lodz by shedding light on the atrocities and persecution there is wildly successful. The phrase, "the truth shall set you free," is tailor-made for this work of historical fiction that is authentic and fearless in simply writing what is. ... (read more)

back to top

Informative & Thought-Provoking

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Spirituality in the 21st Century
by Frank P. Daversa
AuthorHouse


"Earth is merely a learning ground for humanity to evolve spiritually before moving on to the afterlife."

Daversa's look at twenty-first-century spirituality is a deeply personal account of what he has gleaned from years as a truth-seeker. The work offers an outline of his belief system and outlines how one can utilize the book to seek a more spiritual life. Though the author is a self-professed Christian, he values the lessons of other religions and includes many of their beliefs. As stated in the introduction, the author intends to "provide hope and guidance for those starting out on their spiritual journeys, those not currently satisfied with the extent of their spiritual development, and those wanting to otherwise enhance the spiritual part of their lives." Daversa asserts that the goal of spiritual practice is to achieve enlightenment. In order to assist readers in reaching spiritual enlightenment, he lists and expounds upon five principles. ... (read more)

back to top

Colorful Presentation

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Voice of the Rooster and the Lessons It Teaches
by Ellen Beth Berman
Bookwhip Company


"The ‘rooster’s lessons’ unfold, suggesting a way to value each day, by searching for its inner light."

Poet Berman brings to life the ancient Hebrew saying, "…Who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night." It is a profound concept, as are other questions posed in Berman's works, where often the answer lies simply with "G-d." Berman asserts that a face, an innocence, and "a glimpse of the true Artist" can inspire us in all aspects of life. Truth has no mask. It's just "pure 'straight talk,'" as Berman suggests in her opening poem, "Unmasking Truth." When ego assails us in various disguises, G-d seeks to lift us up and shows us who we truly are ("Held Prisoner"). The author accompanies a poem about the Father's love with a sweet photo of a small child crawling eagerly toward outstretched, grown-up arms. Such love and trust are a reflection of G-d's care for us ("Awaiting You"). ... (read more)

back to top

Self-Realization

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Poems for Mental and Spiritual Healing
by Rufus Johnson
Writers’ Branding


"Everything comes to / A stop eventually. / We all must stop before it’s too late."

From the opening poem, "Acceptance," Johnson establishes the understanding that the healing of the mind, body, and spirit begins with relinquishing one's ego and accepting God's presence and divine will. In a poetry compilation that ranges widely from exploring emotions like deep-seated anger to the magnitude of each choice on one's overall standing in life, both philosophical and transcendental topics will likely present audiences with a direct connection to their own lives. At its core, however, the central focus is on freedom and how we can free ourselves from the prison of resentment, anger, and defeat to live a life of compassion, forgiveness, and love while traversing the path God has created. ... (read more)

back to top

Convincing Writing

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Mr. Simpson and Other Short Stories
by Stephen Maitland-Lewis
Hildebrand Books an imprint of W. Brand Publishing


"’Men have a way of hiding who they are when there’s something they want from a woman.’"

Spanning the decades between the 1940s and the early 2000s, the twenty-one short stories in Maitland-Lewis' collection share common themes of discontent, deception, despair, greed, lust, hope, ambition, and personal fulfillment. For example, a man's military deployment to Africa drives his lonely fiancée to infidelity in Ohio. An unfaithful wife banishes her husband from his own home, never imagining that her greed and her refusal to let him see his son will give him his first laugh in fifteen years. A researcher in a remote Danish settlement keeps a damaging secret about the true origin of her lover's Nobel Prize-winning literary accomplishment. A supposed former prisoner tattooed at Auschwitz actually received his body art at an Argentinian tattoo parlor twenty years after the war. A young man engages in an affair sanctioned by his paramour's husband. Another escapes prosecution for murder, while the victim's unforgiving mother murders his innocent portrait painter brother for the crime. And in the title story, Ernest Simpson, former husband of Wallis Simpson, publishes a bestselling tell-all book about their post-divorce friendship and her regret at having married the onetime Edward VIII.t ... (read more)

back to top

A New Tradition

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Mrs. C: A Holiday Fantasy
by S.P. Perone
iUniverse


"We're not playing by the same rules of physics..."

A successful young California professional, Margo, falls for Nick, who turns out to be far different than she imagined. On a second date, he proposes and takes her to see his world—the North Pole. This delightful story is a time-traveling, modern-day Christmas story. Reading this book aloud is likely to be the beginning of a family's new holiday tradition. ... (read more)

back to top

Conquering Fear

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Underprivileged Overachiever: A Crenshaw Story
by Y. A. Salimu
Telemachus Press


"We were all homeless. Every single kid on this field. The enemy was poverty, hunger, and scarcity, not each other."

Yohancé Salimu is a man with a never-ending personality. In his memoir, he fondly explains the pronunciation of his first name by saying it rhymes with Beyoncé. Nonetheless, what seamlessly brings together the charisma and confidence is a relentless desire to get better, to be bigger than the challenges that circumstances have thrown his way. This memoir traverses his childhood journey, leading up to his graduation at Crenshaw High and the eventual next phase of his life at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA). Though there needs to be a disclaimer for profanity in the book, it is within the scope of standard vernacular and fits right into the casual, conversational style of the author. Written with such authenticity, Salimu's energy is infectious and further accentuates the magnitude of the mountain climbed to get to his successes. ... (read more)

back to top

Natural Law

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The System of Nature in the 21st Century: A Book About Truth and Knowledge
by Robert Almada
Lulu Publishing Services


"When we let go of false beliefs that are useless and dangerous, we will become virtuous and rational beings..."

This timely, passionate, and articulate book tackles the problematic search for truth and knowledge in an era in which unprecedented levels of misinformation and disinformation are circulated for personal and political gain. The author identifies how and why erroneous beliefs about "happiness, morals, and politics" are formed and passed on, often from generation to generation and across societies, and makes suggestions on how to "implement solutions on personal and societal levels." ... (read more)

back to top

Scruples

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Murder at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts
by Dr. Philip Emma


"If I’d any money to bet, I would have sworn that the driver was Titiana Prosperosa Pettanko, although I’d never met her in person."

Eccentric genius Mick Maux (pronounced "mouse") struck it rich as a scientist and professor and retired with rare luck. Now he freelances as a private detective. His cases allow him to continue to exercise his vast intellect, and the latest mystery in which he finds himself embroiled is no exception. Peter Pettanko, a Wall Street tycoon and amateur art collector, hires Mick to find his missing glamorous ex-model wife. That night, Pettanko suddenly dies. Officially, a heart attack killed him, but Mick, who swears he sees Titiana, Pettanko's wife, enter the estate as he is leaving, disagrees. ... (read more)

back to top

Disappearing with Grace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Dementia: A Love Story
by Stephen Lewis
Mission Point Press


"When those sounds stop, when she goes into a quiet sleep, that looming future presses itself into my consciousness with unrelenting force. I wait for her to again call my name."

This heartbreaking, carefully crafted memoir tells a remarkable story of love and resilience in the face of inexorably progressing, early-onset dementia. When Lewis' wife, Carol, was diagnosed at sixty-four, he became her primary caregiver. He narrates her painful, steady decline, beginning with memory lapses, impaired mobility, and eventual progression to language loss, helplessness, and death. Along the way, Lewis recounts various therapeutic interventions, effects on the family, difficult holiday celebrations, as well as day-to-day struggles with activities most people take for granted. Interwoven with these intimate details is a history of their lives before the disease began to steal his wife away, providing a rich account of the complex, intellectual, layered woman who is slowly disappearing. ... (read more)

back to top

The US Review of Books is dedicated to fair and honest coverage for all books. We are a leading book review site, often visited for professional book reviews examples.