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April 2022

Book Reviews

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

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Writ in Water: A Novel of John Keats
by James Sulzer
Fuze Publishing

"In this twilight world, the song of the nightingale is reborn as a strand in the eternal tapestry of light and darkness, weaving the weft of its eternal affirmation through the warp of time and change, of loss and longing."

In this hauntingly poetic depiction of the tragically short life of the poet John Keats, readers follow a guardian spirit, one visible and sensed by only one person—the poet himself. As Keats suffers poverty, immense familial loss, and the all-consuming grief that follows, he also endures the painful emotional rollercoaster known as "love" as he navigates a tumultuous romance with Fanny Brawne, the captivating woman whose family hopes will marry well and for wealth. Meanwhile, the real tour guide of Keats' experiences for readers is the unnamed spirit who observes and directs Keats directly and indirectly. The spirit is often hesitant to intervene but feels pity for the poet who continually strives for a place among the English greats and fails to meet society's expectations. This is not because he isn't worthy, but because of the circumstances that life and society have shaped for him. ... (read more)

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Soul Searching

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Wisdom: A Very Valuable Virtue That Cannot Be Bought
by Jason A. Merchey
Values of the Wise


"Wisdom has the capacity to be our greatest strength, individually and collectively."

An immense and insightful treatise on the virtues of wisdom, Merchey's nearly 400-page study is a grand undertaking rooted in philosophical inquiry, examining the unparalleled value that wisdom brings to the human experience. Noting that he draws from a diverse selection of writers' insights on the subject—ancient and modern alike—the author "feathers in" a number of his own perceptions and prescriptions, resulting in an impressive and focused examination on the singular notion of wisdom (in its many forms and contexts) and related phenomena. Divided neatly into fifteen chapters, Merchey covers abundant terrain on the following: qualities wise people value (such as altruism), emotional intelligence, insight and intuition, empathetic compassion, intellectual humility and modesty, issues of applied wisdom, self-awareness and discipline, the nuanced dynamic of wisdom, toleration of uncertainty and patience, open-mindedness ("mental flexibility"), and living a life of flourishing fulfillment. The final two chapters include thoughts on developing greater wisdom and the notion that "we must begin to love wisdom," in that in our complex and troubled world today, the "ability to think through the consequences of our values and our choices—and to improve them" becomes quite necessary. ... (read more)

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Riveting

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Unconventional: A Memoir of Entrepreneurism, Politics, and Pot
by Jamie Andrea Garzot
Girl Friday Books


"I saw the potential to create a store that was different, that did not have the ‘stoner’ customer at its center but instead embraced all customers."

Scores of inspirational, entrepreneurial memoirs are appealing, but few are quite so riveting as this title. With humor and the same point-by-point fastidiousness displayed in developing her pioneering cannabis dispensaries, Garzot outlines her entry and ascendency into an industry in which she originally had no interest. Never a consumer of cannabis, Garzot's life took an unexpected turn when she sought relief for insomnia and discovered that a single cannabis edible brought her a full night's rest. From there, she became a pioneer in the virtually unregulated California market that, even after many years of regulation, still has many peculiarities. Dispensaries still engage in cash-only transactions because most banks don't allow accounts for dispensaries, a situation created by the federal status of "pot."... (read more)

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Delightful, Colorful, Fanastic

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Snoodles, Kidoodles, Poodles, and Lots and Lots of Noodles
by Steven Joseph
Mascot Books


"All you had to do was put some noodles in the Snoodle. Off you would go, and the delicious smell of noodles would immediately fill the air."

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant future, the "air was always clean and the sky was always blue." In fact, every single man, woman, and child in town was happy. This was all thanks to a certain Herbie Snoodleman, inventor of the SnoodleMobile. Quite the sensation and featured in all the major newspapers and magazines of the day, the SnoodleMobile—affectionately referred to by the townsfolk as simply the Snoodle—was indeed a revolutionary form of transportation. And what was the secret of the Snoodle? It was powered merely by noodles. Drivers were even able to add any special sauce of their choosing when powering up their Snoodle. And if that weren't enough, after driving home, by pushing a simple button, a "fresh and delicious bowl of noodles and sauce" would easily serve a hungry family of four. ... (read more)

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Snappy Fantasy

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The Cupid Chronicles
by Dennis Copelan
Apricot Springs Publishing


"The role of Cupid, the Roman god of love and desire... should have been easy."

Satire reaches heavenly heights in this humorous, literary mashup. The narrative features eight earthly romance cases concerning the fate of angel-in-training, Cupid-1637. The accused is charged in Paradise City, Heaven. with violating Cupid's Oath in June 2063. Pixel Millet, a social worker in Paradise City's Department of Discipline, Mythological Gods Division, is appointed to defend Cupid-1637's unorthodox handling of his clients' romantic misadventures. The possibility of being flushed to lower realms hangs over the heads of both Cupid and Pixel. The social worker has represented only one other Cupid, and watching him getting flushed wasn't pretty. ... (read more)

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Bravery in Blue

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Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man's Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement
by Frederick Douglass Reynolds
Mindstir Media


"If you can't learn to swim with the tides of history, you will get swept away by the undercurrents of time."

It seemed inevitable that Reynolds would continue down the road of crime to which he was drawn as a teenager. However, this son of Virginia sharecroppers made the fateful decision to join the Marine Corps and leave the influences of his hometown. After being honorably discharged from the service and with a young family for whom to provide, he began working for the Compton Police Department upon graduating from police academy in 1986. Reynolds worked in one of the most crime-ridden, dangerous cities in America. His career spanned events such as the Rodney King trial and subsequent riots, corruption in all levels of city government, gang violence that pushed the murder rate to astronomical heights, and scandal so pervasive as to cause the dismantling of the Compton Police Department. ... (read more)

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Overseas Adventure

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Until Death Do You Part: An American Family Meets Their Sicilian Cousins
by Wm. Hovey Smith


"Frank took the gun from Roger, slapped in another magazine, pointed it towards the car, and gave it a burst of bullets. The screams stopped."

The Calase family is going to Sicily to see relatives they have never met. Robert and Nancy, along with Robert's brother William, are taking their children back to where their family came from a generation ago. They are bringing their daughter Mary, who works as a hairdresser downtown with William, and their sons, Frank and Roger. Roger is a failed portrait painter who just broke up with his girlfriend in San Francisco and is heading back to the family home in Louisiana. Frank is a Marine, grounded from flying due to injuries, who has learned while on his way home for leave that his wife filed for divorce. Although the Caleses suspect that the Sicilian branch of the family may be involved in some illegal activities, they don't imagine that they are a major part of the Sicilian mafia. Amidst growing bloodshed, Luigi, also known as the Claw, plans to marry two of the young Sicilian ladies to the American brothers as a show of strength to the other mafia families as well as to get them out of the country and away from bloodshed. And Luigi is not a man to disappoint. ... (read more)

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Action & Intrigue

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Before the Alamo: A Tejana's Story
by Florence Byham Weinberg
Maywood House


"You're a very unusual young lady.... You speak like someone much older, and so eloquent."

Exciting action, charming romance, and moral dilemmas fill this extraordinary novel set in the 1800s when Texas was still Mexican territory. It follows the life of Emilia, a woman of mixed heritage, during a pivotal time in history. She lives in a busy little town with a close-knit community and many strangers passing through. Cowboys, Mexican soldiers, and outlaws on the run deliver plenty of adventure to San Antonio de Béxar. ... (read more)

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Mormon Trials

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


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

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

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Skillful Storyteller

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A Date to Die For
by Gaylene B. Corben
AIA Publishing


"The howling wind gave way to dark, grey clouds. The night came earlier than it should have, and the lengthening shadows moving across Paul’s face grew darker."

Set in contemporary Australia, this foray into the oft-examined world of serial killings manages to set itself apart from the majority of such thrillers. While there are plenty of dark and dreadful doings to satisfy the staunchest fans of the genre, there is also a complimentary and insightful exploration of those tasked with tracking down the human vermin who take innocent lives. In a bit of a twist from how these tales are usually told, the psychological underpinnings of the good guys are explored in as much, if not more, detail than that of the villain. ... (read more)

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Hell Has a New Ruler

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Annihilation
by Kaylin McFarren
Creative Edge Publishing


"Lucifer's most frightening power is annihilation. You don’t need knives, spears or firearms when you can turn your enemies to dust with the wave of a hand."

Hell has a new ruler, and her desire for eternal power knows no bounds. When Queen Lucinda replaces her father on the throne of Hell, a new reign of terror and perverse dominion begins. But maintaining control proves to be more difficult than Lucinda imagined as political enemies conspire, secret alliances form, and her father's spirit returns to claim what it is his. Evil retribution is unleashed when he reclaims the throne in a stealthy, unexpected move. Lucifer punishes his daughter and begins the hunt to kidnap and possess the enigmatic Samara, who becomes his queen by brutal force. But some outside of Hell believe Samara to be the miracle prophesied to destroy Lucifer and save the world from annihilation. Will she discover her power in time, or will Lucifer's mark consume her? ... (read more)

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Unforgettable Story

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Eban and the Dolphins
by Carolyn Davis


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

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

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Faith

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Starlight in the Dawn: The poetic priestess who chose to fight
by Naveen Sridhar
KDP Amazon


"Fate and faith are like friends who fail. Yet Enheduanna remained faithful to her faith, her only friend."

Set on the banks of the Euphrates in 2286 BCE, Sridhar's narrative is driven by compelling worldbuilding and character development. While the novel revolves around Enheduanna, the high priestess of the Temple of Ur, each character has a well-developed backstory that is instrumental to bringing the intricate system of government, politics, and power (and often the abuses of each) to life. Through the narrative, audiences will gain exposure to age-old questions such as the constant clash between church and state. ... (read more)

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Spiritual Perspective

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Staying in the Boat
by Calista Helen Harvey
Writers' Branding


"I tried to linger up there with the Lord and His angels, but the Lord sent me back. I felt an incredible sense of awe."

The common phrase "see it to believe it" is debunked thoroughly in Harvey's end-times text, one that hinges strongly on the inverse—"believe it to see it." In this context, the "it" refers to the path that has been laid out by God himself and which can be accessed with the light of belief. Predicated predominantly upon a series of visions, this text uses the author's inspirations to act as a guide for readers. Interestingly, the visions are embedded in events surrounding Harvey's own life, generally exploring positive and negative circumstances. With each vision, there is an accompanying "Word of the Lord" section that uses biblical scripture and verses to unpack it from the context of one's standing as Judgment Day swiftly approaches. ... (read more)

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A Journey

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From a Distance
by Vernon Bargainer
Writers’ Branding


"A new day is an invitation to search for new pathways, raise a new voice, sing a new song."

In this book, readers meet Sarah Lock, who leaves Dallas with "five one-hundred-dollar bills she had dug out of a jar in the pantry." After Sarah leaves for and returns from Oklahoma City, she confesses to her mother and her family that her husband of only a few hours punched her and nearly broke her jaw on her wedding night. Meanwhile, as Sarah journeys to recover and find herself, she meets Kevin, a man who has the potential to change her entire world and outlook on life. Readers watch Kevin and Sarah exchange playful banter and flirtations, and they witness her struggles as she navigates a stressful divorce. All the while, however, Sarah's thoughts turn to Kevin, and the pathway for the rest of her life seems clearer and clearer. ... (read more)

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Kidnapped Children

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At the Feet of Angels
by Vernon Bargainer
Writers’ Branding


"Forsaken by those who claimed to love her, she coddled her toy dolls and sought salvation in dreams."

The innocence and purity of children are angelic, as close to the heavens as one can get on earth. Yet, as Bargainer's novel shows, humanity often reveals the true horror that it is capable of upon the defenseless. This conflict between good and evil is exemplified in the blind faith and devotion of little Jenny Burnett as she clashes with the darkness of Sheila Holdershaw, constantly testing Jenny's innocence in the most gut-wrenching manners. Revolving around the simple premise of how a three-and-a-half-year-old is thrust into a toxic and, quite frankly, deadly environment, Bargainer's narrative is timely yet heartbreaking because of how closely it mirrors the reality of many lost babies who have become victims of kidnapping. ... (read more)

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Fondly Held Values

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The King-Makers of Providence
by John Houle
Bookpress Publishing


"In New England's second most important city, politics was a blood sport."

John Campagna runs for mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, on a platform of honesty and transparency reminiscent of his late father. After unscrupulous cocaine-addicted incumbent Jack O'Malley, Campagna is a breath of fresh air. O'Malley held office for twenty years by nefarious means but now flees to Europe to avoid prosecution as the FBI pursues him for graft, necessitating a special election. If only Henry Mercutio, Campagna's political consultant, still shared his scruples. Just thirty-two, Mercutio, an Ivy League graduate, already has a booming law practice he achieved through honest, challenging work. But in this race, Mercutio soon stoops to the sorts of character-smearing and intimidation his rival consultant Gordon Beako favors, finding himself the subject of racy photos taken with Campagna's niece hours before her suspicious death. How dirty will Mercutio play to ensure a win for Campagna? Might it even cost him the regard of the woman he loves? ... (read more)

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Love Letter

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An Impossible Life: The Inspiring True Story of a Woman’s Struggle from Within
by Rachael Siddoway and Sonja Wasden
The Gap Press


"People often wondered how I couldn’t see how obsessive I was being. My only answer: slipping into insanity is easy; it’s coming out of it that’s hard."

This collaboration between a mother and daughter explores the life of Sonja Wasden, a dedicated wife and mother of three who battles bipolar disorder. Told from Wasden's point of view, the first-hand account begins with her involuntary admission to a psychiatric ward brought about by her behavior and adamant wish to die. The book tells of the fears and compulsions that plague her. It delves into the family dynamic, bursting open the doors of the Wasden home and shining a light on what it means to live with a mental illness. It is the first in a series of books about the family and their fight to carve out a life from the chaos around and within them. The second, An Impossible Wife, tells the story from husband Mitch's point of view, while An Impossible Childhood centers upon Rachael's childhood. Meanwhile, A Possible Life relates how Wasden creates "a life worth living." ... (read more)

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Engrossing Narrative

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They Only Wear Black Hats
by Edward Izzi
Cassino Publishing


"Later than Friday evening, at 11:50 pm, Detroit Police Detective Michael Palazzola made that dreaded phone call that no parent ever wishes to receive."

Blending current and bygone action, author Izzi presents a multi-layered story filled with gut-wrenching events from the 1920s to today. Detroit, Michigan, and the surrounding areas serve as the primary locations for this crime thriller. While most of the action takes place as a contemporary tale, the narrative also goes back in time to reveal historical happenings that help explain current events. ... (read more)

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Real Energy

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The Florida Caper
by David Celley


"It glistens, it shimmers, it radiates the hue of the royalty that was its parent once upon a time."

Of all the jewels in the world, one of the most famous is the Hope Diamond. Renowned for both its size and its blue color, it now resides on permanent display in Washington D. C. at the National Museum of Natural History. While its physical appearance alone makes it noteworthy, it is also famous for an alleged curse, wherein bad things often befall those who come to possess it. Now just suppose that the Hope had actually been cut before it came into prominence, and a stone from the famous blue diamond was embedded in a necklace called "The Eye of the Sun." Then suppose the necklace was stolen. That's the engaging literary conceit behind this involving novel. ... (read more)

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Nobility & Fate

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The Damned of Magdeburg: A Novel
by Herbert Aldinger
Writers' Branding


"It appears to be a common affliction among the rich. The more wealth you have, the more you have a desire to acquire even more."

At the mouth of the Elbe River, Magdeburg, Germany, is the focal point of this historical novel. It captures a snapshot of the Thirty Years' War that, more or less, created religious fault lines between the Protestants in the north and the Catholics in the south. While many of the cities struggled immensely during this period, Magdeburg thrived on the strength of its trade center and food storage. In this narrative, Aldinger adheres closely to the facts while integrating characters and plotlines that probe themes like the seven deadly sins of Roman Catholic theology. ... (read more)

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The Survivor Spirit

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Come Hell or High Water
by Marvin LeBlanc
Writers' Branding


"Some people left after Katrina, and other people said, ‘Come hell or high water, I’m staying…’"

When the tale of loss is so familiar and sensationalized, such as the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, it takes great courage to tell one's own story, turning a catastrophic event into a testament of human resolve. What could mankind not do if it took to heart the literal "come hell or high water" mentality that the entire city of New Orleans and its surrounding areas was forced to take? LeBlanc's writing is simple and compelling with the eye of a historian. The contents, whether words or photographs, leave a lasting image in the reader's mind. ... (read more)

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Elder Advice

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The 16th Second: The Wild Life and Crazy Times of Colt Michael—What Really Happened
by Ted A Richard
W. Brand Publishing


"I have lived through my fifteen seconds of fame, albeit not without scars. But what about the 16th second? What happens then?"

Trauma and homophobia in Richard's hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, led him to Houston, Texas, where he found a vibrant, welcoming gay community—and where he discovered exotic dancing. Performing under the name Colt Michael, Richard became a highly-recognized, award-winning stripper. He spent years living a double life, using drugs and alcohol to bridge the gap between the fabulous, debonair performer and the lonely, insecure young man he truly was. Unfortunately, his wild lifestyle caught up with him, and HIV/AIDS, as well as his rampant substance abuse, took their toll on his body and mind. ... (read more)

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Science Fair

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Susannah of Coppermopolis
by Catherine Folsom
Writers' Branding


"Then she reached above her head and grazed the sky blue ceiling with the tips of her fingers. 'Someday, I'll live above this ceiling,' she sighed to herself."

In this cute middle-grade novel, Folsom takes an interesting and unique approach to an apocalyptic world where living on the surface of the earth is no longer safe. Susannah, the twelve-year-old protagonist of the novel, lives with her family in Coppermopolis. This underground civilization came into existence when those above the surface escaped the uninhabitable and polluted air. In place of the sky and sun, the underground caves are equipped with artificial light, engineered seasons, and more. Though this book has futuristic elements to it, it still retains the familiarity and mundanity that many kids will be able to associate with, such as schools with fully equipped classrooms, multiple subjects, school buses to take them home and back, and most important of all for this story, a science fair. ... (read more)

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Horror of Abust

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Touch
by Rebecca Miller
Unveiled Publishing


"When the image in the mirror shatters, it can either break you, or you can learn to see a thousand new possible pictures."

In this visceral and touching young adult novel, teenager Megan Brennar's family moves across the country to get a fresh start after the unexpected death of her mother. Once a promising artist, Megan has lost herself in her grief and expects their new life in Missouri to be nothing but misery. Everything changes for her—and soon for the entire Brennar family—when she meets Shawn, a troubled loner who misses school for weeks at a time. As Megan gets to know the beautiful but evasive Shawn, she begins to realize that he is involved in something dark and dangerous, and her proximity to him simultaneously helps him and makes things worse. When the abuse Shawn suffers at home comes to light, and his life is at stake, the entire Brennar family must step in to help. In the process of trying to save Shawn, they come to heal some of their own wounds as well. ... (read more)

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Inspirational

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Two Girls from Nazareth
by Judy Barnes
Judy Barnes


"'How is that going to be? I am not planning to go to Bethlehem. I do not have a reason to go there. Does she know that I am that Mary?'"

Mary and Mary Elizabeth are best friends growing up in Nazareth. They are nearing marriage age and enjoy gossiping about their suitors. Mary Elizabeth is certain John will ask for her hand, but the girls wonder if Joseph will ever get up the nerve to ask for Mary's hand. John asks first, but Joseph isn't far behind. The girls begin dreaming of having a double wedding. Mary Elizabeth starts having dreams that some suspect means she'll eventually carry the Messiah. Mary and Joseph, however, are visited by the Lord, and Mary is the one actually chosen to give birth to the promised one. They are also told not to share the news with anyone. She conceives, and the two rush to marry. Mary Elizabeth is disappointed that they won't have a joint wedding and a little envious of Mary's early wedding, but she never realizes the true reason. As the pregnancy nears completion, amongst rumors about their hasty wedding, Mary and Joseph find themselves having to undertake a difficult journey to Bethlehem. With a delay due to her condition, they arrive to discover that there is no room at the inn, and the baby is coming. ... (read more)

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Real Change

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Those Who Made a Difference, Book 1
by Terry Brosga
Writers' Branding


"Some people live a life that touches few; others live so that someone will be forever different whether unintentional or deliberate."

The opening biography in this wide-ranging collection is that of the short but exemplary life of Sun-Yat-Sen, sometimes referred to as the Father of China. Born in China in 1866, he moved to Hawaii and pursued an education in Hong Kong following his conversion to Christianity. He wished to make his country a Christian nation. But after his death, the government reverted to religious persecution. Brosga expresses his hope that someday China may embrace the ideals of their once-revered exemplar. ... (read more)

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Marvelous

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Chambers of the Heart: speculative stories
by B. Morris Allen
Plant Based Press


"That way lies Despair, and I know, with the certainty of experience, that this interlude of Ecstasy will be a brief one."

Allen's collection of sixteen stories explores our natural world and the surreal in surprising ways. The author contemplates the full range of human emotion and response to startling circumstances with each wild tale. Some stories could be fables, while others are purely science fiction. However, all are unsettling, joyous, or fantastical. ... (read more)

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Simple & Succinct

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The Prophet and the Warrior: A Fictional History of Moses and Joshua
by Richard Grabmeier
Authors Press


"War is not about what is righteous or just—it is about who is strongest."

For millennia, the histories of religions have been documented and passed on from generation to generation, almost as a rite of passage into a faith-based understanding of the world. In a narrative influenced largely by actualities from biblical scripture, Grabmeier focuses on presenting a more comprehensive and digestible experience for readers, especially the youth. His premise, more or less, is to create a society of critical and introspective thinkers who don't simply take what they are told at face value and as the end-all-be-all of their existence but rather probe and question en route to forming their own conclusions. ... (read more)

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Reads Like a Fable

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Music in Darkness
by Exona Moll
URLink Print and Media


"I can only really love you if you open up to me."

A lonely servant girl searches for a friend. In the hotel where she works, she exchanges secret notes with a mysterious storyteller whom she intuits she could help. Shy, this storyteller consents to meet but not be seen by her. Finally, he invites her into his home, his music, and into his life. They marry and create a new life for themselves in another town. Securing time for him to play an organ at a town church threatens his sacred anonymity, so, instead, he fashions a flute to play at home from hollow sticks. Music brings him joy during a fatal illness. When he dies, the servant girl reveals their unlikely love story. ... (read more)

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A Fascinating Life

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Kenneth McKenzie Diary: 1869-1870
by Joyce McLean
Writers Republic


"It gave us great courage to hear from all our dear ones at home."

Kenneth McKenzie was born in 1822 in Inverness-shire, Scotland. In 1841, aged just nineteen, he emigrated to Puslinch, Ontario, Canada, and married three years later. His endeavors as a farmer supported his wife and ten children for twenty years until he established a new farm near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, in 1867. He achieved his ambition to become the first settler of a community, which he named Burnside, situated on the bank of Rat Creek. That farm took years to establish as frequent and arduous travel between Canada and the midwestern United States, prolonged illness, obligations to his family, and maintenance of his existing property slowed his progress. Nevertheless, once solidly established, the new farm remained in continuous operation within the McKenzie family until its sale in 2010. ... (read more)

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Enlishted for Prayer

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101 Reasons Why Prayer Is Not for Wimps
by James Tranquilla
Blueprint Press


"In spiritual warfare, we must begin to learn some of the same tactics used successfully in secular warfare."

With a family background reaching back to the harshest world war experiences, author Tranquilla applies his understanding of waging war to the battles that all Christians must wage against the forces of evil. This continuing struggle requires planning, discipline, communication, and comradeship. One of the first necessities for a prayer warrior is recognizing that individual prayer won't suffice. People of like mind must gather and pray together to achieve the best effect since Satan knows and fears such cumulative power. An example given is that of an apostle—Peter—in prison. Peter asked the entire church to pray for him, with immediate results. ... (read more)

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Operatic Tale

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Amadeus! What Makes a Human Human?
by Josephine deBois
PageTurner Press and Media


"I am a human being, whether you like it or not and whether or not it fits with your distorted view of being a human being."

An opening scene backgrounded by Mozart's Requiem, which he wrote for his own funeral, predicts a lot of death in this book. A scientist, Duilio, who is about to present to science and church colleagues his findings on the "Total Synthesis of Human Beings," goes missing. The last person to see him is the famous conductor, Ludwig Mann, who is nervous about a series of concerts his manager has set up for him with Ludwig's pianist friend, Tiffany. She has been trained by a Korean mystic and musical expert. Ludwig's manager and lover, Josephine, receives partial project funding from church officials. How all of these situations and relationships are connected is the source of intrigue, collusion, and murder. ... (read more)

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Redemption

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Tough as Nails: Poems Inspired by God
by Karen J. Chisholm
Xlibris


"Division is De-vision.
Men have lost the dream.
Those who set in motion
Gave way to those who scheme."

Daily communication with God is the recipe for peace and harmony and a pathway to digging deep within the inner spirit to understand who one truly is by knowing the Lord. The compilation injects a strong dose of humility, helping people come to the realization that they are but part and parcel of the supreme and that, in the grand cosmic sense, humans are minuscule. Humanity's accomplishments and gains stem from God's glory, his way of showing mercy and instilling within each person a unique gift. Revolving around this premise, Chisholm's work is sheer joy, carrying within it a purity of purpose imbued with an unfiltered abundance of the Lord's love. ... (read more)

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Intimate Walk

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Shadows of the Void: Complete Poetic Works
by Shane Gerry


"The darkness will never betray my secrets."

Blending the literal with the figurative, this collection takes readers on a journey through the nuances of surviving peacefully in a modern world. Poems like "Plugged In" provide commentary on humanity's reliance on technology and the numbness that develops from constant exposure to violence. With a Kerouac-like spirit, the metaphysical "Traveling Bum" gives readers an acceptance of what comes after a life well-lived. "Humanity's Chalk Line" uses the dark as a metaphor for ignorance and takes readers on a journey through the emptiness of everyday existence. In other poems such as "Fetching the Chaos," one experiences the surrealism of existing in a world in which one doesn't fit. Meanwhile, the poem conveys the message that people can only achieve self-awareness after they recognize their own flaws. ... (read more)

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A New Trilogy

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Yesterday Revealed The Florida Keys: Hubris of Pretension
by Kerry Kwiecinski
GoToPublish


"We've found some bodies over here in one of the small tributaries."

Two couples—Geo and Amy and Tucket and Maryanne—are having the trip of a lifetime, navigating the Florida Keys. Then Geo and Tucket discover three bodies while camping in West Content Key. A story of intrigue follows as three more bodies are found, and three of the friends go missing. Conservation Officer Kip Greene, his girlfriend, Suzy, and their friend Teqe find themselves entrenched in a mystery that involves a series of shady criminals, including a Mexican drug cartel. The author includes fascinating facts about the area's history in this crime thriller and takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of criminal intrigue in one of the most beautiful and interesting locations in the United States. Not only will readers discover a fast-paced murder mystery, but they will also learn a great deal about life in the Florida Keys. ... (read more)

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Overcoming Fears

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Dwayne Casper: Casper’s 2nd Journal
by Dwight Jackson
Xlibris


"But no matter what, real kings still grow. They’re coming back for everything they own."

In this unique, boldly illustrated book, young readers find a story of inspiration and strength and discover the joy and freedom that comes with conquering one's fears. They also learn of the joy a strong faith and the gift of salvation offers them. The book repeats a message that will likely resonate with young Christian readers: " True kings don't die." Then, as the book continues, a brighter message appears, reminding children that while life is difficult, the path brightens as long as one pursues their true purpose. Individuals hold the power to let their unique beauty shine. By the book's end, young readers and their parents have learned that happiness does not lie in wealth, corporations, stocks, or real estate. Instead, one finds happiness by not only working toward self-acceptance but also by abandoning the world's trappings. ... (read more)

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Imaginative

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Orientation of Dylan Woodger: A Central New York Crime Story
by Chiuba E. Obele
Fischer House Publications


"But this much is clear: Utica would forever change my life."

What would happen if one's normal, everyday life not only turned upside down but morphed into a nightmare? When Dylan J. Woodger finds himself being questioned by a ruthless mafia boss in 2019, the last thing he remembers is being dropped off by his mother at Hamilton College in Utica, New York, in 2016. Apparently, he's stolen three million dollars but has no memory of how, when, or why after being tortured, raped, and given a memory-impairing drug. One never truly understands the depths of evil or one's own capacity to commit crimes until seized by the talons of desperation. ... (read more)

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Divergent Roads

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Dr. Altman and the Concubines
by Jacqueline Shortell-McSweeney
Archway Publishing


"But you must admit, despite new age crystalling and a thousand points of light and compassionate conservatism, the majority of us have a mean streak that gets a lot of exercise."

The cheeky attitude starts on the first page and fortunately doesn't let up. Sig is a female private investigator in early nineteen-eighties New York City. At age thirty-two, she's not what one thinks of as a classic gumshoe, and her trenchant observations are frequently more about art than adultery. It's not that she doesn't crack wise about sex and salaciousness. She does. It's just that her ironic insights cover culture as well as crime, and she's more likely to be packing battery belts for video surveillance than shoulder holsters for shootouts. ... (read more)

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Full-Throated

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Defiant: A Slaves to Fate Novel
by J. M. Bloodworth
AuthorHouse


"The last thing I hear before I turn in for the night is quiet but clear. The words sound ghostly and send a shiver down my spine. “You’re not strong enough."

In this contemporary novel, author Bloodworth kicks his imagination into high gear as his plot pits a smart and savvy high-schooler against evil incarnate. Hallucinogenic happenings hold court from chapter to chapter as a young man attempts to come to grips with voices he can't shake and nightmares from which he awakes not only sweating but bleeding as well. The frenzied speed of the narrative risks giving readers paper cuts as they flip the pages to keep up. ... (read more)

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Amazing Drakes

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Return of the Ancients: The Huntress Trilogy (Book Three)
by Paul Fletcher
PageTurner Press and Media


"Pyros with several fire balls in each paw is watching patiently for the enemy to group."

The Kharree are a race of intelligent dragons, or drakes, who each have remarkable abilities tied to an element, like fire, water, or time. Mira is a NonKharree who originally went out to hunt them for attacking her village. After battling them, she later learns their language and lifestyle and becomes a part of their tribe. The drakes have recently discovered a library with rumors of an ancient Kharree city. They form a small group to investigate, hoping to learn more about the past. They ask Mira and her drake mate, Kajika, to lead the small band. Furry beasts attack them during the journey, and Mira is critically wounded. They meet an ancient guardian in the city who tries to heal her. However, he isn't sure if it will be possible because she isn't a drake. ... (read more)

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Sharp Memories

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

An Impossible Wife
by Rachael Siddoway
The Gap Press


"Even through all the hell she had brought into his life, if he was honest with himself, he was proud to be her husband."

Family upheaval and marital stress are examined in sometimes heart-rending detail in this finely detailed account of life with a wife and mother afflicted with mental illness. When Mitch and Sonja first meet, it is almost love at first sight. She is a daughter of a wealthy, successful father who grills Mitch about his abilities, aspirations, and intentions. Somehow Mitch passes the test. The early years of bliss with Sonja begin. But slowly, Sonja's illness begins to assert itself, the first clue being her compulsive need to invest Mitch's money, nearly destroying their credit. A passion for jewelry follows. And to make matters worse, dark moods, screaming, and bizarre behaviors eventually lead to a horrific suicide attempt after a fight with their teenage son. Mitch feels forced to withdraw emotionally and physically from his apparently insane wife. Can their love, which still occasionally reasserts itself, be sustained, or will total separation be the only remedy? ... (read more)

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Hard Work Pays

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Autobiography of a Life Worth Living with God’s Help: The Adopted Son
by Joseph C. Peterson
PageTurner Press and Media


"Don’t just aim for profits, aim for a reputation of love, spirituality, and compassion."

In this autobiographical work, the author tells the story of his life from his out-of-wedlock birth in 1939 to age eighty-two. Peterson and his seven siblings were placed in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Philadelphia, PA, by his mother, who had little means of caring for any of her children. Adopted by a middle-aged couple, Harry and Dorothy Peterson, the author suffered great abuse at the hands of Dorothy. However, Peterson overcame this early abuse, became a successful businessman, had a successful marriage, and raised a family. ... (read more)

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Ultimate Salvation

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Welcome to the Light: A Trumpet Of Truth
by Karl Krahn
PageTurner Press and Media


"God gave His Son to die on the cross so your God can live inside you. It’s really very simple. It’s one on one."

Lively poems express author Krahn's sincere belief that anyone can access God/Jesus within, confuting with doctrines common in certain Christian churches in this era. Krahn's poetry is well suited to his basic premises, such as this exhortation to perform good deeds: "To help the poor and those that need / will bring you much, and more. / Your helping will insure a place, / Inside of Heaven's door." ... (read more)

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Deep Compassion

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Father's Love: Justice and Forgiveness
by Jean DeFreese Moore
Covenant Books


"The Spirit had come to Reid in a dream, telling him, “Don’t be afraid to take (this woman) home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit."

A sequel to A Father's Love: Faith and Family, Moore's book continues the story about the next generation of Britts. Reid Britt is as devoted to God as his father, Travis. He promises to marry Chipeta, a beautiful Indian woman, after she is brutally attacked and assaulted so she will not have to have her child out of wedlock. Before her due date, Reid delivers news to his family that he will be away traveling for his new job at a law firm. Instead, however, he has taken a job as an undercover agent in the dangerous world of human trafficking. While he is away, Chipeta is attacked again and loses the baby. Travis and Luke, Reid's older brother, step in to care for an ailing Chipeta. Soon, the entire family is affected by Reid's double life as a secret agent. Even in the midst of danger, the family remains strong and keeps the faith that, although Reid is not with them, he is working for God to help save those who cannot save themselves. ... (read more)

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Frank Chronicle

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Fighting to Survive: My Nightmare of Pudendal Neuralgia and Entrapment
by Judy V. Rentz
Bookside Press


"One must stay strong, even when no doctor can say what is wrong."

The author has spent a lifetime in physical pain, at times intense and seemingly unrelievable, balanced by her unconquerable spirit and will to survive. Her story began at birth when she was delivered at her mother's rural homeplace by a local doctor. It was a breech birth, and the infant was "pulled and tugged." Throughout her childhood, Rentz complained of hip and leg pain. Yet she developed a passion for gardening that has many times helped her maintain inner peace. Another gift she is blessed with is her ability to sing, bolstered by her abiding Christian faith. For many years she was diagnosed with and treated for fibromyalgia. But in 2007, when her husband was contemplating retirement, and they had just bought their dream home in Rentz's childhood region of Tennessee, Rentz began to experience pain in her back and groin area so severe that, for much of the time as she so vividly and harrowingly describes, she was screaming, in tears, and barely clinging to life. ... (read more)

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Racing Plots

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Citizen Vain: Stories from Down Under and all over
by Gerry Burke
iUniverse


"I'm afraid you will have to accept that these yarns are not serious works of fiction."

As playful as they sound, these fifteen stories are caricatures inspired by place names, such as Monty Carlow, Al Abama, and Mel Bourne. Jen Eva, daughter of a brick and mortar businessman, becomes a big shot shot-putter, so big that she squashes a kid when she sits on him accidentally. Another female athlete, Kath Mandu, goes into politics after her famous cricket career, followed by a religious pilgrimage. After that, she becomes a sportscaster. Frank Sumatra and Cam Bodia are male celebrities. However, their fame and fortune lead to demise. ... (read more)

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War of 1812

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Commodore and the Powder Monkey
by Mark Barie
Barringer Publishing


"The girl's entire life, filled with tragedy, grew worse when she became a part of the President's crew."

Since the age of twelve, Charlotte "Charlie" Wheeler has been dressing as a boy and helping her father run trade routes on his raft on Lake Champlain. But a series of tragic events leaves her fatherless and essentially raising herself and running her own business before she decides to enlist in the Navy to help fight the British. Charlie gets a job as a powder monkey aboard Commodore McDonough's ship, but her real identity as a young woman remains a secret. However, her plans to keep it that way are soon at risk when her paths cross with those from her past who know her secret. What will happen when everything culminates at the Battle of Plattsburgh? ... (read more)

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Cat Dreams

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Cat Who Ate Spinach / El Gato Que Comía Las Espinacas
by Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza
PageTurner Press and Media


"He jumped out of his bed, ran up the chimney, climbing fast like a spider and out on top."

Copper is a contented tabby cat, as depicted by author and literacy professor Acuña-Garza. When Mom, his helpful human, brings in fresh spinach from her garden, the odor immediately attracts him. He offers his signal, "Meow." Mom is amazed that he wants to munch greens, but she gives him some. He enjoys the spinach, "then he wants more!" Mom reasons aloud that spinach, being good for people, making skin and eyes healthy, and helping to prevent serious diseases, might help cats, too. Copper listens politely while eating happily. ... (read more)

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Being Prepared

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

End Times: According to Scripture
by C Pallaghy PhD
Xlibris


"At His first advent Jesus came as the gentle Lamb, but in the Second Coming He will appear as the victorious ‘Lion of Judah.’"

Author, scientist, and Christian Pallaghy offers a serious analysis of the biblically predicted end times relevant to Christians. He posits a world whose days, as noted in scripture, are one thousand years long. Six days have passed from the time of Adam and mankind’s creation. From biblical quotations enmeshed with a rational examination of pertinent fact, he demonstrates that the end times have long been predicted, encompassing such elements as the three feasts of Israel, the decline of the church in the time of the writing of Revelation by the apostle John, and the appearance of two symbolic women: the light-infused bride of Christ harvesting souls prepared for redemption and her opposite, a female drunk with blood, riding on a seven-headed beast. Such symbols are not to be feared but utilized by those exploring the fulfillment of latter-day prophecies. Christians must not be complacent but alert to the many signals given about what is to come to be part of that heavenly harvest of souls. ... (read more)

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Solitude

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Satisfied Introvert: A Memoir About Finding Safety in an Extroverted World
by Benjamin Plumb
The Satisfied Introvert


"As introverts, we attempt—as children—to cope with an extroverted world by adopting some kind of winning recipe."

Plumb's memoir explores the hurdles of being a quiet person adapting to a highly stimulating, extrovert world. He considers its effects on his well-being over the course of sixty years and across several countries of the Western Hemisphere. With an analytical mind, Plumb's predilection for formulas early on compels him to develop strategies to cope, ensure safety, and combat the pitfalls of shyness. But he eventually learns that even a "winning recipe" doesn't always guarantee success. ... (read more)

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Drama & Survival

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Out of the Box: A Memoir of an Adoptee
by Patricia Bauer Collins, RN
iUniverse


"At times, I felt like I'd become a detective."

Speculating about one's ancestry and biological parents is a rite of passage shared by most adoptees. Even loving relationships with adoptive parents and siblings can't erase the pain of wondering why one was given up. Collins examines her life with a remarkable devotion to honest self-reflection as she explores the mystery of her origins. With extraordinary determination, she approaches composing her memoir with the same enthusiasm that she applied to other aspects of her life by attending writing classes and conferences, working hard to develop the writing chops that have allowed her to craft this lively, fascinating narrative. ... (read more)

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Vivid

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Cattle Drives, Moose Hunts, Blizzards, and Such: A Northern Canadian Cowboy
by Lloyd Byra
Xlibris


"My first cattle drive was over with a world of new experiences that would change me and my lifestyle forever."

In this adventurous true story of one family's struggle to survive and thrive on a homestead in Northern Canada, a unique time and place come to life in Byra's deft turn as a storyteller. He introduces readers to his parents, Polish immigrants who settled the homestead as the Great Depression loomed. His hardworking parents established a way of life and carved out a place for the next generation to come of age. The land and the environment served as a master teacher, delivering hard lessons that were always laced with joy, discovery, and excitement. Byra details close encounters with moose, cattle drives, dangerous weather, and isolation. He also shares about bonds with neighbors, schoolhouse memories, and important traditions that fulfilled his childhood and adolescence as he came of age on the homestead. He recounts experiences that shaped his life and describes through vignettes what life was like growing up in the far north of Canada. ... (read more)

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Never Say Never

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Where Is The Justice? (Second Edition)
by William F. Hill
Inks & Bindings


"We realized that we were not going to be able to do anymore auction or real estate business."

In a narrative that opens up as an ode to the very definition of the American Dream, the author provides a comprehensive and microscopic view of his family's evolution from potato farmers to agricultural excellence. Hill was born in 1935. The author's childhood is captured perfectly by a snapshot of him carrying a dinner pail and going into the fields to pick potatoes with his father. The opening is brimming with Hill's innocence and childhood exuberance as he portrays the depth of his bond with his dad. From an emotional perspective, the flourishing father-son relationship is intriguing. However, it is the matter-of-fact nature with which the writer highlights details of his formative years that is refreshing. ... (read more)

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Faith Retold

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

God Is Always Present
by Vincent J. Cincotta
Xlibris


"My basic prayer to God never changed. I asked for guidance and an open mind."

Author Cincotta reviews the many incidents in his life that led him to understand the divine oversight that has so often protected him. The first such happening occurred when he was a young child on his grandmother's farm. During a thunderstorm, as she held him over the kitchen sink for hand washing, a voice told him to "Move back!" He obeyed, and suddenly lightning shot out of the spigot—"a close call to death." At age seven, he met a friend, George. Later, the two shared a life path that took Cincotta into the military and a chance to visit many countries. After college and a meeting with a priest to talk about joining the clergy, Cincotta surprised himself by declaring his wish to train thoroughbred horses. He worked his way up to the top of that profession. There were other powerful situations seemingly designed to shape his destiny, both professionally and in his family life, with periods of financial and other hardships overcome by a combination of determination and his strong religious faith. ... (read more)

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God's Love & Embrace

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Piece By Piece
by Deborah White
Xulon Press


"His loving embrace piece by piece. For I am justified, redeemed, and found in Him!"

In her memoir, the author candidly depicts the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse she went through from childhood to adulthood. Believing that she was not worthy of love, she did not expect God to show her love, patience, and appreciation. First and foremost, her mother abandoned her when she was four years old. Next, her father did the same thing. So it was hard for her to fathom that God would fully accept her unconditionally. ... (read more)

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Regret & Loss

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Copacabana at Midnight
by Brian Ray Brewer
Goldtouch Press


"Night presses in upon us,
moonless, dark and deep,
like the pressing silent terrors
of a thought-tormented sleep."

Brewer presents an intriguing compilation of speculative poetry and eleven spellbinding short stories. He explores various topics, both simple and grand, even paying homage to classic poets who inspire his work here. For Brewer, the world is both freeing and imprisoning, and it requires little for him to speak volumes on his equally menacing and awe-inspiring contemplations of it. Many of his pieces conjure up dread and fascination at the mysteries of the earth and our interactions with it. There is a beauty and oddity to his weirdly hypnotic tales, which include witches, demons, strange birds, fearsome orbs, and seductive sirens. ... (read more)

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Awakenings

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Clandestine: A Classic Book of Poetry
by Amy Ritchie
Xlibris


"Time measured against eternity is brief,
And all life surrenders as it must.
But I live in many worlds,
Like stardust."

Perhaps a daughter's anguish upon losing her beloved father is best captured in "Heartache," a poem from Ritchie's compilation that describes in excruciating detail the loss of a loved one. From adversity, however, one has the opportunity to eradicate the nature of the self and truly recognize one's self for the inner spirit that resides within. Constructed within the structure of narrative prose, the poems exhibit fearless storytelling that facilitates the evoking of emotion within readers. ... (read more)

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Emotions

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Some of My Seasons
by Margaret Netherby
AuthorHouse


"My heritage courses through
The way I choose to thread
The textures of the moments of my plight"

A poet writes through her adult phases: family life, divorce, advocacy, and mysticism. Like the seasons, the poems present many moods. The initial group (from the late 1970s) plays with humorous images, such as cars as status symbols, plumbing, and verbosity. Later poems display anger and disappointment toward parents, dads who don't show love, and kids going off to college. The haiku section celebrates wildness that feeds the soul in plants, the cosmos, and birds, as well as contemplative life. Long tribute poems to friends and family members add ballad-like stories to the panorama of styles. The final "Mystic Law" set of poems conjures ancient myths and symbols (gods and goddesses and the phoenix) as sources of new energy. Taken together, the poems present a lush portrait composed of vibrant snapshots of an enterprising woman. ... (read more)

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Seismic Shift

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

In Search of a Father’s Love
by Loretta (La-Rue’) Duncan-Fowler
Xlibris


"What do you do when the generational curse of divorce, abandonment, and betrayal starts with you? How do you cope?"

The deepest traumas and wounds hold the potential to ignite immense faith and resolve. Duncan-Fowler's poetic compilation is one such example as it takes vulnerability and authenticity to the next level. Juxtaposing it with an impeccable command of the poetic word, the brunt of the work comes across as a lyrical masterpiece, a lesson on rhythm and pace. ... (read more)

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Positive Dreams

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

A Light from Within: Inspirational Poems of a Child's Struggle Through Trauma
by Nikki Kelly
AuthorHouse


"Trauma is trauma.
Just like it sounds,
It tears you up,
It knocks you down."

In this poignant poem collection, a child faces extreme challenges, unable to share her secrets. Knowing she was adopted, poet Kelly often thinks of the mother who left her behind. Although she is grateful to her adopted mother, she will always wonder why her birth mother chose to give her away. As she starts school, she is unable to make good grades and even finds herself failing her classes for a reason that is not fully understood at the time: dyslexia. Words blur, lose meaning, and no advice seems to help as, by high school, she still cannot read. And perhaps worst of all, she is being abused by a man who treats their relationship as "accidental." Still, it goes on and on, tormenting her physically and mentally, destroying her sleep and self-esteem. In general, "she keeps her secret, and remains in hell." But gradually, her dyslexia is recognized. She also becomes known as a person with a high IQ, and her attacker receives the punishment he deserves. ... (read more)

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Turbulence

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Emmanuel 9
by Richard Shine
Xlibris


"Release your spirit, free your heart."

In this relevant poetry collection, readers find verses where the violent realities of American culture meet with peace, prayer, and meditations. Poems like "Doctor M, L, K" remind them that the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has never truly left but keeps on "marching as we sing." Other poems such as "Heal the Land" remind one of the power of faith and prayer in the face of adversity and seemingly insurmountable challenges. It bears the rallying cry, "There must be peace in every sky / there must be love in every eye." Later in the collection, the poem "Evil Minded People" bears a stark warning: "Evil can happen at any given time." The collection concludes with "I Wish You Well," a positive set of verses that leaves readers exiting the book's pages with a smile. ... (read more)

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Goddesses

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Unfold Your Petals
by Vange Cain
Goldtouch Press


"I have within my feminine essence—a strength and wisdom that can get me through all things."

This book is a tribute to goddesses, women, and men. It uplifts the reader to be in touch with the goddess inside, offering life guidance for anyone seeking goddesses to be their life coaches. Whether it is strength, fertility, a deeper connection to Mother Earth, or creative inspiration, this book provides support by explaining how the goddesses want to help nourish one's mental health. Structured in chapters that feature a different goddess, this book is a celestial tour that reveals that the divine feminine has many faces and teaches one how to call upon one's inner goddess. ... (read more)

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Finding Self

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Black Butterfly: Transform Your Pain into Your Purpose
by Carla A. Vincent
Archway Publishing


"For the longest time, I saw no real purpose in my life, but God knew all along."

Debut author and counselor Vincent shares lessons to help others that she's learned from her personal struggles. Overcoming one's stresses and moving forward in a dynamic, meaningful way requires strong motivation, which arises from one's attraction to the God-created energy that exists eternally. This "law of attraction," Vincent believes, is "actually a lifestyle," allowing its proponents to advance in all spheres of life. Chapters cover such vital qualities as using one's imagination, controlling and channeling one's feelings, and acting as if one's goals are already, or very soon to be, met. Vincent records her vision of success while reminding readers of the many barriers she overcame to reach her current level of accomplishment. Each chapter concludes with verses from energizing songs, scriptural quotations, and exercises for the reader to undertake in key areas—spiritual, physical, financial, career, and relationships. These exercises emphasize hopes and advise realistic moves from negative to positive, often accomplished with simple, practical alterations in how one pictures oneself and one's future. ... (read more)

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Urban Fantasy

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Black Diamond and the Witch's Curse
by T-Pot
Xlibris


"Omar saw the hatchet lodged in the wall, grabbed it, and ran to the zombie, which was standing directly in front of the control panel of the elevator."

Derek James is beginning his freshman year at a prestigious university on a football scholarship as a wide receiver. He is excited to be on his own and start a new journey in his life. He looks forward to figuring out what his major will be, playing college ball, and meeting lots of new people. Naturally, this includes the young ladies. However, Derek also has a secret. He is a warlock. He is surprised and encouraged when he recognizes other warlocks with the help of a magic necklace, and they soon become good friends. What Derek doesn't expect nor want is for an evil entity with powerful accomplices to target him and his friends in a murderous plot. ... (read more)

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Who Has Seen God?

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Foggy Bottom Storytellers at the Port of Poets
by Damon Wilbur Brazwell, Jr.
Xlibris


"Bason's words had stunned, rendered the bullies with numbness."

In this unique novel, fiction blends with drama, and readers meet a tight-knit Arkansas family. Beginning in autumn, that "Queen among seasons," the narrative travels with Kailene M. Johnson and her brother, Pickens W. Black IV, through Blackville, Arkansas. From there, one encounters a cast of characters, including the memorable and philosophical Kamau and Damon Jr., a young man struggling to overcome the hardships of the "Jim Crow" era. While the novel centers on Damon, one follows Damon's supportive family. They are gathered around him as he pursues education and utilizes his talents to better himself, his family, the world, and others around him. A spiritual journey also unfolds and leaves readers with the comfort, "Now that ~We~ have introduced ~Ourselves~ to you, let ~Us~, the storytellers, move on and tell you the story." ... (read more)

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Missing Pages

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

The Lantern
by Callie McFarlane
Xlibris


"Love has a way of echoing through the years, honey."

This third book in The Hidden series offers another engaging look into the lives of women fighting for their equal place in society. Bethany is a strong female character who suffers no fools and can take care of herself. She has accomplished great things and experienced brave adventures as a veteran photographer. Her new goal is to create a coffee table book and perhaps a photographic exhibition to celebrate the extraordinary things that women have accomplished throughout time. What follows is a grand adventure for the reader through time and place, highlighting many different characters living unique lives that somehow are also similar to one another. ... (read more)

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True Heroine

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

This Is Eden?
by Nancy Radcliffe
AuthorHouse


"She got up from the stump and slowly walked toward the gaping door of her new home. 'Lean not on your own understanding.'"

A feisty wife proves her mettle by moving to virgin land in Wisconsin from Chicago in 1913. Hattie, the serious one compared to her carefree husband, John, agrees to his proposal to move from a dirty, cramped tenement for the sake of her sick kids to land the railroad is selling. John sends Hattie and their six children ahead and plans to join them after completing Bible college. Hattie and family finish the half-completed cabin, put in a garden, and put down roots, anticipating John's arrival. ... (read more)

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Fast-Changing World

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Then and Now
by Jo Ellen Oliver
GoToPublish


"We can learn to live with what life throws us."

At eighty-four years old, Oliver has seen great changes occur in the United States both politically and culturally. She begins her memoir by sharing stories of her early life and her family's history. Her mother's grandfather, Warren Sibley Cushman, was a talented artist, and her maternal grandmother was a musician. On the paternal side of her family, her father's grandfather was a plantation owner on the Mississippi and Louisiana border. When her mentally ill sister, Jean, was institutionalized, Oliver spent weekends with her at the institution. Oliver contended with her mother's depression and borderline personality disorder as a child. She and her husband have been married for sixty-three years. They have witnessed such historical events as the sexual revolution, the fight for women's rights, the civil rights movement, and the assassinations of a president and two of the country's most important leaders. ... (read more)

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On The Ground

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Letters from Vietnam
by Dennis Hoy
Xlibris


"Battle was the height of competition in my life, something I haven’t experienced since then and never will again."

This memoir of a tour of duty during the Vietnam War offers a detailed account of an infantryman drafted into the war in 1966. Using letters he sent home to his new wife and his parents, Hoy recounts the battles, patrols, R&R, and overall conditions during his year fighting and staying alive in Vietnam. His powerful first-person perspective provides an in-depth view of the reality of war as a drafted soldier and offers insight about the Vietnam War that can only come from someone who has lived through it on the ground, in the jungle, and on patrol. Descriptions of the heat, the fear, the impossible choices, the animal encounters, and humorous incidents all combine to create an encompassing story of war that is authentic and moving in its honesty. ... (read more)

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A Swashbuckler

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Leon the Warrior Dog: Book 1
by Cy Sansum
AuthorHouse


"We believed in what our hands could deliver."

Set in the third century A.D., a shepherd and his dog go off to fight for the Romans against the Goths. It may be that the young shepherd has some divine intervention as he makes some narrow escapes and has inexplicable luck and timing on the battlefield, ala David and Goliath. This story can be read simply as an adventure story, but it is a spiritual parable as well, at least for more mature readers. All this is in the background of the real fun: the tale of Leon the wonder dog, who is always at young Commander Zug's side. ... (read more)

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Engaging Fiction

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Ellwood's Odyssey
by Marshall Garvey and J.D. Weaver
Xlibris


"The president's expression of joy turned to one of barely concealed disgust the moment Ellwood stepped up for a handshake."

Enjoying a middle-class lifestyle much better than many of their peers, the Washington family still suffered the racism African Americans felt in the 1940s. The parents of Ellwood and Norbert Washington taught their sons honor and discipline and pushed them to pursue their goals. However, the boys' lives became more difficult when their father passed from a heart attack while the brothers were still in school. Norbert became very despondent and lost interest in almost everything. Ellwood decided to join the military to honor the values his father taught him. As a paratrooper in the Korean War, Elwood would lead a secret mission to rescue a captured Korean informant codenamed "Threshold." That fateful mission, and its secrets, would impact the Washington family for decades. ... (read more)

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Conflict & Tension

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Hunting for the Lamb of God
by Jamey O'Donnell
AuthorHouse


"It was at that moment that the world took a quantum leap backward and nothing would ever be the same."

In this dystopian tale, the West finds itself crippled when North Korea and Iran join forces to attack with "three nuclear explosions strategically positioned over the United States, designed to create a super electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cripple the U.S." This attack effectively stops all electronically powered equipment from working. There are no computers, cars, phones, or communications, "and 3200 jet airliners began to fall from the sky over America, Canada, and Mexico." Those alive after the initial event must now find a way to survive its effects. As people begin to starve because of the inability to produce and store food, they turn to a ready food source—humans. Cannibalism runs rampant, with gangs attacking homes to procure food. But not all people wish to survive through the eating of human flesh. Is it possible to carve out a life among those who would readily kill another human for food? ... (read more)

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Business Acumen

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Business Leadership in Turbulent Times
by Michael Lawrie and George Tsetsekos
Archway Publishing


"While many believe what matters is a good strategy, we postulate that a good strategy is certainly necessary but not sufficient for a firm to succeed and create value."

During the pandemic of 2020, the world reeled as it struggled to understand an emerging disease that impacted the health of thousands and discover how to adapt to a lockdown economy. Many once-thriving businesses were unable to recover from the economic downturn. Lawrie and Tsetsekos address the fundamental question as to why it is that in times of uncertainty, some businesses thrive while others are forced to close their doors. The authors convey this by presenting the reader with a paradigm shift on a core element of business philosophy: that a good strategy, while necessary, is not the key, critical element to a business' success and value-add. In fact, it is reliant on five factors: a sound strategy, asset deployment, a financial model that supports the strategy and generates profit, executive leadership, and workplace culture. According to the book's teaching, in order for a business to survive in a global economy, particularly in times of instability, this model needs to be adopted. ... (read more)

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Dark Violence

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Revenge Is Perennial: The Alliance of the Unknown
by M.M.L. Heyrman
AuthorHouse


"Years of mass slaughtering wildlife have led to an unprecedented animal uprising which shakes modern civilization."

Set after the Boer War, veteran Edward and his nephew Morris seek to deal with their needs: Edward, his trauma, and Morris, his career and future. However, long before their time, a philosophy called zoologism had taken hold in Great Britain. Zoologism's main tenet is to secure humanity's dominant position over other animals. To enforce this, its adherents have created The Defenders, a militia to torture, subordinate, or kill any non-human being that might pose a threat to humans. ... (read more)

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Freedom & Wealth

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

Liberty, Science, and Wealth
by Ralph. L. Bayrer
Xlibris


"The economic gap between advanced and poor societies continues to widen, even though a trillion or more dollars of aid has been provided by the developed to the underdeveloped countries."

Bayrer's book focuses on a broad range of topics from economics to Confucianism. The author has written an impressive work that will appeal to all those who wish to learn more about American prosperity and its relation to the countries around it. The rise and fall of empires have a rippling effect that continues to shape today's world. Bayrer painstakingly examines the errors that past and present leaders have made and where the United States of America can go from here. ... (read more)

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Longing & Perseverance

Book Reviews - US Review of Books

West, by Southwest
by Joann Klusmeyer
PageTurner Press and Media


"That pulling and tugging within him seemed to say, go west by southwest, to find peace for your soul."

Andrew Erickson has one thing in common with his ancestors: a feeling of wanderlust that stirs him to leave his home and travel west by southwest until he finds the place that speaks to him. He purchases a Conestoga wagon for his long trip. Before leaving, however, he finds a three-year-old girl standing by the Atlantic Ocean. Young Lucinda tells him she is waiting for him because her father said a nice man would come and help her. Andrew is drawn to this intelligent young child, and he decides to take her with him. While on the road, they meet a young woman escaping a terrible situation, and she accompanies the two for safety. They eventually settle on the prairie, where Andrew, a master builder, builds a reputable business and begins a family. Will the penchant for travel and relocation continue with Andrew's descendants? ... (read more)

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