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Book Review of Breakfield and Burkey’s, Out of Poland

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Breakfield and Burkey’s, Out of Poland is a stand-alone novella with a gut-wrenching plot and strong, intriguing characters. This fiction is also the prequel to the highly acclaimed contemporary techno-thrillers, The Enigma Series.  Readers of the cyber mystery and suspense series will want to explore the historical back story of the genesis and foundations of  The Enigma Series’ R-Group.

The story begins in 1939 with Germany about to overrun Warsaw, Poland. Ambassador Ferdek Watcowski confronts the political situation with determination to give his family and the country hope. His daughter, Patrycja, will become an important individual in the struggle for survival. The ambassador’s son, Ferdek the younger, and his two close friends, Tavius and Wolfgang, are lieutenants in the Polish army with nerves of steel and clandestine orders that can get them killed.

Highly descriptive and emotional with hair-raising suspense in the actions of the three courageous Polish men and one woman’s mission to deliver a secret package to the British Government. The package was a secret device used by the Germans that, in the hands of the British, would be of great value in winning the war. Out of Poland is a fictionalized narrative of an espionage event that happened during  World War II.  The events unfold during a most trying time for the Polish people, as this quote from the book illustrates.. “This a time of war in a land that no longer belongs to us.” “We are doomed no matter which way we go.” “The Germans are at our door and will take our liberty…and the Russians are at the other one ready to take our soul.”

 

 
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Book Review of Importance of Now by Paul Schumacher

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The Importance of Now by Paul Schumacher narrates the chaotic life of the protagonist, Shawn Stevens, who is haunted by his past. He harbors complex feelings towards his deceased father and his stint in juvenile detention for a crime he committed following his father’s death. The story is touching and heartfelt and a reminder that family relationships are rarely easy or simple. 

Schumacher, tells the story from multiple points of view in both the past and present, as indicated by the Chapter’s titles. Therefore, readers will be able to follow the strong, diverse characters from multiple generations. The author’s ability to structure the storyline in this complex way is evident in his successful, multi-layered parallel and entwined plots.

Aiden, aged thirteen, speaks in the first person to welcome the reader into his chaotic and troubled world. He is typical of many young teens who want to know about their personal history. Especially since he has never known his father, and his loving and caring mother seems to be hiding secrets disguised as the truth. Not receiving the answer, he wants from his mother, he hides in the attic to scrounge through discarded memories looking for clues about his father’s existence.

Chapter Two introduces 18-year-old Shawn fourteen years earlier. His story is also told in first person as he reluctantly tries to reintegrate himself into his hometown after spending several years in a home for delinquent boys. Shawn reaches out to the pastor of his family church and is shocked that the pastor wants him to mentor four quirky fourteen-year-old boys. The challenge of dealing with these boys shatters his beliefs in himself. Shawn thinks the boys are not getting any of the lessons he’s supposed to teach, but he is learning more about himself in the process.

 

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Book Review of I Named My Dog Pushkin, by Margarita Gokun Silver

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I Named My Dog Pushkin, by Margarita Gokun Silver, is subtitled    And Other Immigrant Tales, and antidoted “notes from a soviet girl on becoming an American woman.” If this doesn’t entice you to read this delightful book, reading the back cover will whet your curiosity. Silver’s book is more than memoirs. She writes in the fashion of short topical essays that are mostly the sequential memories of an idealistic, intelligent young woman with romantic aspirations.

Silver labels herself as “homo sovieticus”. Although born in Russia she is not considered Russian because her family roots are Jewish. She begins her tale by relating her fascination with all things American. Especially Levi’s. And fantasizes about her family emigrating to the Promised Land where she can become rich and famous.

Silver, her father, mother, and grandfather were able, through bribery, taking chances, a great deal of planning, and good luck to obtain exit visas with America as their final destination. Told with wit and footnotes to explain Russian terminology and customs, the reader gains insight into the life of a young immigrant as she tries to adapt to her life’s dream.
 

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Book Review of Liberty Bound by Nathaniel M. Wrey

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Nathaniel M. Wrey, author of a futuristic fantasy, Liberty Bound, has created a refreshingly different view of a survival tale. Through his study of history and understanding of the present, his rapid-fire narrative takes the reader into criminal minds, violence, and movie/ screenplay adaptable action.

Finbarl, a gun-toting young guard patrolling the walls of the last remaining earthly civilization, Athenia, sets the scene and mood. He helps protect the residents of a destitute and frightened human-occupied compound.  Prowling the surrounding desert-like wilderness are the Ferrels, sub-human, depraved creatures that attack and cannibalize humans. The plot revolves around the citizens’ belief that they were chosen to guard and protect what’s left of world civilization against the enemy Ferrels. These wild savage beasts are believed to be abominations, mutated criminals, “anarchic elements responsible for the death of the old world.”

Finbarl is a relatable character. When forced to lie, he “felt his heart race, his stomach knot, and his mouth go dry.”  His experience as a guard transporting prisoners to the desert introduces the reader to the realities of  “prison.”   He begins to wonder if there is justice for innocent but condemned citizens. Then he is also unjustly sentenced to a certain death in prison.

Aminatra, an intelligent young mother convicted for theft becomes an unlikely love interest.

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Book Review of One Kingdom Under Heaven by Alastair Luft

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The year is 2029. The United States has been hit by a Chinese EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that has caused national chaos. One Kingdom Under Heaven by Alastair Luft takes the reader into the minds of a special-ops international infiltration team of assassins, and their counterparts, Chinese leaders’ intent on ruling the world.

Immediately the intense plot grabs your attention with Chinese officials’ interrogating the captured leader of a covert terrorist team. A back story reveals the relentless attack and assassination attempt by the protagonist, Malcolm Kwong, “(F)ormer Lieutenant-Commander in the United States Navy. Former SEAL,” an assassin for the USA. Malcolm assembles a furtive team to avenge his family’s death due to the EMP and to retaliate against the Chinese for acts of war against the United States. As the plot flashes back to Malcolm’s story of frustration and disillusionment, it discloses his personality and character and the make-up of his team of avengers.

Malcolm’s team sets out on a clandestine trek across 700 miles of China’s Taklamakan desert with 18 camels and handlers and the constant threat of dehydration. Readers can feel the desert heat, sweat dripping, grit, sand, and the lack of water. Sand “got into the collars of their shirts and the seams of their pants…into their armpits and knees and groins…mixed with their sweat to chafe and cause raw aching sores”.

 

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Book Review of Crystal's House of Queers by Brooke Skipstone

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Crystal's House of Queers by Brooke Skipstone is a novel about the lives of teenager, Crystal Rose, the protagonist, and her group of teenagers living in the small town of Clear, Alaska. It's a queer coming of age story, a portrait of struggling amid the Covid Pandemic crisis, and a tender and heartbreaking love story, complete with a collection of memories of abuse, trauma, joy, and survival.  Crystal lives with her loving but rigid grandparents and younger brother. Deserted by her abusive parents, believed to have died in a car accident, she finds an unexpected home in the tight-knight conservative community which lies virtually in the center of the great state of Alaska. Skipstone adds a beautiful queer romance at the center of the novel that is breathtaking in its honesty and complexity.

Crystal finds herself drawn to Haley Carson and vice versa. Crystal dreams of erotic encounters with Haley, and eventually, she will live those dreams.  Crystal also intercedes in a confrontation between Haley and her abusive boyfriend.  A lot of complicated feelings ensue. Skipstone handles the serious subject matter with tenderness and depth. The characters feel very real, constantly surprising both themselves and the reader.

Epic in scope, Skipstone's stunning book is an unflinching conventional narrative of how queer women are viewed in today's world.  It is a journey of gender and sexual discovery. It celebrates the beauty and complexity of queer lives without glossing over the trauma created by a transphobic society. It's the kind of queer narrative we badly need: honest, freeing, and vital.

 

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Book Review of Manifestation, by Rob Tucker

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Manifestation, by Rob Tucker, is the second volume in his Black Spiral series. The paranormal fantasy thriller is a complex physiological novel with a convoluted plot involving occult-style murders. The fascinating and intriguing page-turner is exhilarating and suspenseful with a complex cast of characters.

 A succinct preview introduces the main characters and hints at an alternate existence dominated by a rogue dark spirit.  Human reality is questioned.  A digital world is introduced, and human imagination challenged.

The prologue immediately draws the reader in with the sudden disappearance of a Wall Street billionaire, Gale Walsh, and his sudden return a week later in his office at First World Corporation. Dead, with no indication of how he died. Was he murdered with no weapon? Suicide? An inconclusive autopsy opens the case to the FBI.

The ingeniously interwoven backstories of multiple distinctive characters intensify the plot, and alternate with the primary mysterious action in a shadow world.  In order to better understand the degenerate chaos revealed by the strange deaths, Leon Safullo, a profiler, consults with a retired magician and illusionist. Maximillian Schult introduces the FBI to SIM (simulated individual module) world. A dark energy world is identified through a black spiral DNA helix where-by humans can be controlled through quantum physics and dark energy.

 

 
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Book Review of Fool's Errand by Jeffery S. Stephens

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Author Jeffrey S. Stephens has another captivating novel in FOOL’S ERRAND. Told in the first person by the son of Blackie Rinaldi, the storyteller is a young, single, advertising executive who recounts this gripping and humorous tale of family secrets through recalled stories of family dynamics. The author sets the scene through flashbacks of this large, picturesque, extended immigrant family in New York City grappling with identity and survival. The storyteller relates how, six years after his father's death, he receives a box of papers and mementos from his mother. which includes a letter written to him dated only months before Blackie was killed in an auto accident. His father died, leaving a mysterious legacy of a purported treasure he claims to hold the secret of a "bigger deal since the building of the Suez Canal". Blackie was “a mass of paradoxes”. He was a war veteran who made a decent living as a salesman but supplemented his income through illegal means. He was loud, gruff, and an opinionated gangster. A tough guy. An alcoholic. A dreamer.

Defying his uncle, and others, his son sets out to find this treasure but soon discovers he is entangled in a web of secrets. He begins to chase his father's fantasies for clues to the puzzle. He sets out from New York City to Las Vegas, then to France to pursue his father's dream. Along the journey, he acquires a love interest as well as a trail of mob members who are also interested in the whereabouts of the treasure. As the storyteller completes his journey of intrigue, he learns more of his father's dangerous past and a decades-old mystery, while learning a lot about himself and his family.
 

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Book Review of Crimes and Passion by Jeffery S. Stephens

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If you are in the mood for a little suspense, you'll find Jeffery S. Stephens' psychological thriller, CRIMES AND PASSION makes for an excellent way to satisfy that urge.  This novel gets your heart pumping and delivers a delicious uneasiness as a tale unfolds that keeps you turning pages. This contemporary novel is an intriguing story within a story. The first sentence seizes the reader. "There was no reason for Elizabeth Knoebel to suspect that this was going to be the last day of her life." With the main character lying nude and murdered in her master suite, the reader is given a peek at the last words she typed into her computer. Was she writing a sexually explicit memoir, a diary, or was she a neophyte novelist with a warped sense of creativity?  Perhaps she was conducting research for a book. 

Before the body is discovered, detective Robbie Whyte is called to talk a suicidal teenager off the roof of a four-story bank building. He meets Randi Conway, a young female psychologist who has been consulting the boy's parents in her role as marriage counselor. Whyte and Conway clash over the appropriate ways to treat the boy. At this inopportune time, Whyte receives a call about finding the murdered woman. 

 

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Book Review of There Are No Saints by Stephen Kanicki

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There Are No Saints by Stephen Kanicki is an engaging and subtly humorous tale set in the mid-1800s in Titusville, a tiny village in Pennsylvania. Like overgrown corn stalks, or macabre grand cathedrals, oil derricks sprouted from farmland. “oil… is the new religion of Titusville”. 


Told in the first person by Dexter James, the plot revolves around the gullibility of the uneducated population of this suddenly wealthy town. Men had struck an underground river of oil, causing thousands to rush to Titusville, hoping for instant wealth. The prospects of wealth attracted Dexter James, a self-proclaimed “demonologist extraordinaire.” 


Sometimes called an exorcist, Dexter preferred the term demonologist because it sounded more academic. He claimed to be well educated in his chosen field and prepared to “cast off demons, devils, spooks, spirits and evil minions.” Perhaps a charlatan or a snake-oil salesman, a slick con-artist or amateur psychiatrist, Dexter is ready to find his fortune through art performance combined with theology and psychology. He was searching the crowds of pedestrians for a possible client when he spotted her.  The belief that demons exist and can possess people is of course the stuff that makes great horror tales and Kanicki weaves a great story with his invading evil spirits. Does exorcism work or is it all due to the power of suggestion and psychology? If you believe you’re possessed, then an exorcism just might cure you. 
 

 
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Book Review of The Truth Behind Covid-19 Preview by Mack “Cordell” Moore

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The Truth Behind Covid-19 Preview by Mack “Cordell” Moore is an expose on issues surrounding Covid-19 and its containment.  The book’s compelling arguments and information about the Pandemic ask numerous disturbing questions that need to be considered and thoughtfully explored.

The coronavirus Covid-19 has upended life as the world knew it for months. At the same time, an unprecedented global effort to understand and contain the virus—and find a treatment for the disease and its causes—has been underway. Mack Moore investigates this fight against Covid-19 and the various strategies being considered to stop its spread.
Moore asks, “Has the media been honest about Covid-19? Are vaccines safe? Is Covid the only threat?”  These questions Moore addresses in The Truth Behind Covid-19, which he states is a preview of an even more explosive book coming later in 2021.

 

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Book Review of Mystic Invisible by Ryder Hunte Clancy

 
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Ryder Hunte Clancy's Mystic Invisible is a young adult fantasy set in the enchanted Highlands of Scotland. It is a charming and readable romp with a most sympathetic hero. Filled with delightful details of magic and Scottish folklore, the story follows the adventures of the protagonist, fifteen-year-old Monte Darrow, as he learns to live with his mystic powers in his ancestral home; a small town plagued with a mysterious and growing mystical force. 
 
The atmosphere Clancy creates is unique, complete with a small town populated by Norms, Mystics, and mythological creatures like cat-siths, Nuckelavee, and unicorns. Rich and vibrant characters fill the tale, such as the beautiful Moira Bryce, a powerful and enchanting woman, and the hilarious and endearing Grandmother Meriweather.  Finn Cornelius takes the spot of Monte's best friend along with the elusive Cameron, who might be a bit more than Monte's platonic female pal.  
 

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Book Review of Operation Bluebird Author: by Harry Old

 
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Criminal activity in London, England, 2014-2015, is the backdrop of Operation Bluebird, by Harry Old. The plot begins with tantalizing flashforward time slices that entice the reader to rapidly turn pages. The story is told through the actions and psychological musings of Carolyn, known as Carrie. She is an undercover detective with the London police force. In her professional police undercover role, she is known as Cara, a racy pole dancer in an exclusive establishment, the Paradise Casino.

Carrie must infiltrate the underworld, which’s masked as a legitimate business enterprise. To do this, she must take on the persona of Cara if she is to succeed in her quest. Carrie is determined to follow her instincts as a detective. All the elements are there — edge-of-your-seat suspense, gruesome crime scenes, and plenty of grit. One thing that is necessary in her investigation is to get her partner accepted into the controlling family. Also, on the top of her list is her desire to avenge the death of a young prostitute who died at the hands of this criminal element she’s infiltrated.
 

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Book Review of "Sheltered: When a Boy Becomes a Legend", by Jacob Paul Patchen

 
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Sheltered: When a Boy Becomes a Legend by Jacob Paul Patchen is a narrative by the protagonist, a 13-year-old boy named James, who becomes the leader of a group of young partisans known as the Risers.  The United States has been attacked by forces that are being resisted by many citizens, including those from small towns, suburbs, and rural areas. People have fled to the hills and woods to conduct guerrilla operations against the invaders. James and his brothers-in-arms are one of the groups who are resisting and are using military tactics, including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, and hit-and-run tactics, to fight the invaders that have infiltrated their area.  It is truly a story about rising to the occasion. It is also a story that makes it very clear when you fight for your country, for your home, for your life, for your freedom – your age makes very little difference.  To survive, you need to kill those who are seeking to kill you.

James falls into the role of leader of his young partisans and feels the added pressure of not only being responsible for his own safety but also that of other teenagers much like himself.  He feels the fear and desperation of fighting an enemy that is much better trained and armed than he and his comrades. However, the Risers have the advantage of fighting for a true cause, their existence, and the knowledge of their surroundings.

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