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The Great Kieranski and the Bardbuy by Cate Mara

Cate Mara's "The Great Kieranski and the Bardbuy" is a story about a charismatic boy named Great Kieranski who is determined to have an adventure on his last day of summer vacation. Kieranski and his crew, his group of friends, decide to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the enigmatic monster called a Bardbury.

Their adventure results in all kinds of excitement, from encounters with a bully to amateur sword making. This is a story of friendship, and the reader really gets a feel for the camaraderie of the boys.

The dialogue is true-to-life for the age group, and there are a number of funny parts that young readers will enjoy, such as a dog that is notorious for eating butter. The writing is perfect for the middle-grade audience, and readers in the age group will not have difficulty reading through the book.

Overall, this is a great book for kids 9 to 13, depending on reading level, and those with an adventurous streak will enjoy it the most.

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The Carpenter by Max Myllan

Max Myllan's "The Carpenter" is a fresh take on the thriller/crime genre that will take you on a ride you won't want to get off.

The main character is Eric James Donovan. A former black ops leader, he is now a carpenter suffering under the recession. When he is made an offer by a mysterious person known as the mediator, Donovan accepts eagerly. Using a neurotoxin from a puffer fish, Donovan begins his career as an assassin that brings him face-to-face with personal struggles, moral dilemmas, and death itself.

One thing you should note about this book is the writing is top-notch, reminiscent of Ian Fleming's voice, with descriptive yet curt narration. Myllan is an author who does his research and everything from fishing scenes to neurotoxin chemistry is described with details that you'd expect from someone in the respective fields.

The plot is well-paced, and I really enjoyed the main character's cynical, calculated, witty voice. The author injects a bit of real-world feel to the novel with the addition of elements of the recession.

Overall, if you want to read a fresh take on crime/thriller novels, you will enjoy this book.

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Visitors from the Forgotten Planet (We Are From Earth) by Phillip Drayer Duncan

 "Visitors from the Forgotten Planet," by Phillip Drayer Duncan, follows four friends who get caught up in a storm en route to a camping trip that sends them on an adventure, with unusual creatures and technologies.

They learn a lot about the world, and more importantly themselves, the more entrenched in the adventure they get.

Something to note about this book is that it is approachable science fiction. There are many fantastical scenes and creatures, but as the reader, you don't get caught up in ultra-confusing scifi lore.

Duncan does a great job relaying the characters' sense of wonder about being transported to a different world. And his use of the characters' vernacular feels very accurate for the the demographic (male twenty-somethings).

Something that was delightfully unexpected about the book is its humor. Its smart and well-placed, not cheesy, and made me laugh more than a few times.

If you want a fresh take on approachable scifi, this book is a must-read!

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Dream Time by Parris Afton Bonds

Review"Dream Time" is a fresh, engaging historical romance set in colonial Australia.

The novel follows a cast of characters, the main ones having difficulties with love, in the colonial Outback.

The most interesting character is Nan Briscol. She must deal with being in a new place and having conflicting emotions -- both longing for and hating the man who resulted in her exile.

The descriptions of dress and manners are detailed and period-appropriate.

The reader really get a sense for the time with Parris Afton Bonds' writing.

For Any historical romance fan, this book is a must-read!

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12 Ways to Make Now the Best Time of Your Life: A Journey of Discovery for Women Ages 50 to 99 by Rayna Morgan


"We realize that our true self is not reached through other people but found deep inside of us during communion with our Soul." 

"12 Ways to Make Now the Best Time of Your Life: A Journey of Discovery for Women Ages 50 to 99" by Rayna Morgan is a book about living the second half of life to the fullest by moving past social and internal barriers.  
"12 Ways" describes ways in which women can gain a better understanding of their life journeys and themselves during this time of new perspectives and changing social roles in regards to "working, parenting, socializing." 

Morgan recommends embracing and consulting with your Inner Guide and prodding the needs of your Soul to achieve inner peace and self-worth.  Similarly, Morgan recommends time in solitude as the first steps to realizing a limitless and boundless existence.  In addition, the author recommends trying new things to make this second half of life an ever better adventure than the first half.    

Morgan's strongest point is when she writes about the need to search for the spiritual reason for our earthly lives and when she advocates for the seeking inwards instead of outwards for happiness.  

The writing in "12 Days" is terrific! Morgan really understands the personal and social issues that women face in this life stage and even uses the lifespan perspective to try and explain certain behaviors and feelings, especially concerning social roles.

"12 Ways to Make Now the Best Time of Your Life: A Journey of Discovery for Women Ages 50 to 99" is a top-notch piece to help women reach their full potential as they transition from motherhood and full-time work.  Recommended!

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The Business Anarchist's Guide to Peak Productivity and Time Management: Getting More Done In Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible by Jerry Jones

"The Business Anarchist's Guide to Peak Productivity and Time Management" by Jerry A. Jones is a succinct guide book on how to improve these essential skills so that you can really get the most out of life.  

From his personal experience creating and selling 14 businesses as well as information from over 20 sources, Jones provides simple strategies and principles that will stretch your productive capacity and carve out time to recharge with loved ones, go on vacation, and enjoy free time. 

Jones believes that his time management and peak productivity recommendations work best for those who have a good understanding of their own personal motivation to improve in these areas.  

Although the guide book is relatively short, the content is rich.  There are kernels of wisdom in every chapter regarding topics such as communication skills, planning and prioritizing your day, the Pareto Principle, delegation, procrastination and much more.  Jones even covers the importance of eating well, exercising, meditating, doing yoga, engaging in positive self-talk, and harnessing the power of the subconscious during sleep to problem-solve by setting a pre-sleep intention. 

The greatest aspect of this guide is the author's candid and organized recommendations.  The book is easy-to-read and cleverly planned. 

"The Business Anarchist's Guide to Peak Productivity and Time Management" is well-worth your time because it will allow you to be an even better time manager and producer! 

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Roan: The Tales of Conor Archer by E.R. Barr

E.R. Barr's fantasy debut novel, "ROAN: The Tales of Conor Archer, Volume 1," is a story about 17-year-old Connor Archer's self-discovery and transition to adulthood in Tinker's Grove, Wisconsin, after his young mother passes away from cancer in their Chicago apartment.

Barr interlaces the story with Celtic myth, Native American folklore, and modern science, which crafts a unique world and a page-turning epic fantasy.

In the beginning, readers are introduced to the evil, black-robed "Piasa," also known as the bearlike Wisconsin River monsters, that have haunted Indians and scare a Mr. Walter Johnson who is fishing for catfish late at night.

Then in Chicago on the night of his mother's death, a strange biker greets Connor after his tin whistle gig at the DerryAir bar, gives him "the water of life," and inspects his webbed fingers before biting his hand as an initiation as a "one of dark ones." Next, a lady with a yard of hair sits with him as he soaks his bleeding wound in the Buckingham Fountain, and she knows that the stranger's bite speeds "the change." Before turning into an aged crone, the lady urges him to find "where the willows weep" and drink the "water from another world" to stay alive.

Warned about an omen of death, Connor rushes to his mother just in time to hold her before she dies.
Connor follows his mother's instructions to go home to Tinker's Grove with her body and find Aunt Emily, but his sickness from the bite overwhelms him. Once he improves, however, Connor must face the challenges of changing into a a shape-shifting Roan and learn about the history of his Irish ancestors.  Not only must he grapple with his personal history and development, but he must also find a way to prevent the evil Piasa as well as the villainous Caithness McNabb and Dr. Drake from discovering the powers of the Roan.

One of the highlights of the book is E.R. Barr's top-notch writing. The plot is creative and sophisticated, and the author has a unique approach to the typical good versus evil dichotomy by melding myths with modern life. Lastly, Barr embellishes the protagonist's world with appreciable details, and the novel is masterfully edited.

This book is a must-read if you are a fan of epic fantasies and of delving into a rich and thoughtfully-crafted world.

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The Price of Honor: The Life of a Spy by Danny Odato

If you want a fresh spy novel from an author you're not familiar with (yet), look no further than "The Price of Honor."

The story follows US spy James Coville as he goes undercover in Soviet Russia as Adam Novakova. His interactions with KGB agent Natalya Sverlova prove to be incendiary, and the pair find themselves on an edge-of-your-seat ride that keeps you wanting to know more. If there were one thing that I'd want potential readers to know, it is that this is a psychological spy novel. There is lots of action and suspense, but there are also lots of secrets and battles of wits. The main character is contemplative, and the reader gets to see his thought processes all the while.

The main theme in the novel is that the main character has to make sacrifices to perform his job, and he occasionally reflects on this training with the CIA, his home in Montana, etc. The interactions between James and Natalya are extremely engaging, and the other more-minor characters are well-written.

The plot is paced well, and you won't find yourself getting bored (or putting this book down once you pick it up). The ending delivers all you want it to (and more).

This is a fantastic buy for anyone who likes smartly written spy novels with psychological aspects as well as suspense and action. I'll definitely be looking for the author's next novel.

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PINKSLIPPED by Romina Wilcox

Romina Wilcox's "Pinkslipped" is a novel about an idyllic family in Silicon Valley, California, headed by Jennifer and Ed Tesler, and the challenges that the Great Recession forces them to face.  Although the story is fictional, the experiences the author writes about are drawn from real experience.

Prior to the recession, Jennifer is the breadwinner of her family due to her work ethic and loyalty to Tri-Tech as a Senior Business Analyst.  In concert with her husband's career as a master chef, they are able to afford items of lavish taste for themselves and their three children, Emma, Emily, and baby Caleb.

But when Jennifer receives the unimaginable pink slip from Tri-Tech after 15 years of work, her family's stability and her own self-worth suffer a tremendous blow.  Even with companies turning down Jennifer left and right for candidates with H-1B visas, she holds on to the hope that her family can still achieve the American Dream if she remains persistent and resilient.

The highlights of "Pinkslipped" are the candor, humor, and organization of the writing.  Particularly, Wilcox's humor lightens up the realities Jennifer faces and shows the change in her perspective, feeling more appreciative of the numerous blessings she has even in the absence of a job.  Her descriptions of the characters and their thought processes are very interesting as well.

If you want to read a well-told story about a well-off family affected by the recession, "Pinkslipped" is a must-read because the writing makes the effects of the Great Recession on families come to life and demonstrates people's capabilities to adapt, hope, and persevere amidst challenge after challenge.

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The First by Kipjo K. Ewers

Kipjo Ewers' "The First" is a super hero novel with many qualities found in super hero comic books

The book is about the transformation of the intelligent, resilient Sophia Dennison into a super hero. "The First" opens with Sophia being taken away for lethal injection, but Sophia is not one to be held down by a deadly, toxic injection.

The remainder of the book follows Sophia's life on the run to various locations. Kipjo Ewers writes very descriptively thoughout the book. He does a great job of evoking emotion. For instance, during the prison scenes, the writing is cold and matter-of-fact.

The author has also put a lot of effort into making the characters feel real. The main character, Sophia is exciting to follow, and I really enjoyed seeing her work her way out of problems and explore her new powers.

Overall, if you are a super hero fan, you will love the fresh super hero story in "The First."

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Sex After Prostate Cancer: A Wife's Secret by Lori Wilk

"Sex After Prostate Cancer" is an encouraging book about how to deal with the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, including the medical and psychological aspects.

One of the great things about this book is that it covers everything from the medical aspect (what is prostate cancer, what is the PSA blood test, etc) to the psycho-social aspect (how to adjust to sex afterward, what to do about problems with erections, etc).

The author, Lori Wilk, is very passionate about this topic, and it shows in her writing -- you can tell she has a genuine desire to help others.

Her writing is simple and concise, and only tells you what is important. She shares a lot of personal information and anecdotes, which helped me see her points more clearly.

The section about depression following the diagnosis is particularly informative. All too often we get caught up in the medical aspect of a diagnosis, and we can forget about the psychological aspects. There is quite a lot of information (even statistics from the American Cancer Society)  in this book, but it is organized well and not difficult to follow.

This book is an absolute must-read if you or someone you know is going through a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

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