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The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance

George Mumford. Parallax (PGW, dist.), $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-941529-06-5

Debut author Mumford teaches mindfulness techniques to champion athletes, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. But the advice he packs into this book isn't just for athletes: his tips will come in handy for anyone's performance. After an opening testimonial from Phil Jackson, Mumford lays out his five "superpowers": mindfulness, concentration, insight, right effort, and trust. "These spiritual superpowers are interconnected and they work together," he counsels. In fact, he points out, the first three are grouped together in Buddhism as "the threefold training." Mumford soon delves into specifics, explaining, for instance, that mindfulness promotes concentration and insight, right effort helps create a positive mindset, and trust makes the other powers possible. Mumford emphasizes the importance of stepping out of one's comfort zone, but in a slow and steady way to avoid burnout. It's understandable to be afraid of taking a leap of faith, he writes, but the alternative can be unhappiness and spiritual demise. Mumford outlines how he's lived all these principles and applied them to the teams with which he's worked. He doesn't shrink from the grittier parts of his own story, including a serious heroin habit that these principles helped him overcome. This straight-talking, practical guide will earn a keeper spot on many bookshelves. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret's Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines

Eric Blehm. Crown, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8041-3951-9

Blehm (Fearless) delivers an intense tale of how a poor, troubled boy found salvation and purpose as a solider in the story of Raul "Roy" Benavidez (1935–1998), a Green Beret who saved "at least eight men" during a vicious May 1968 firefight in Cambodia. Incursions into Cambodia were so secret that the troops involved were sworn never to divulge any information about them. Green Beret units engaged in regular missions across the Cambodian border to hunt down North Vietnamese (NVA) troops who used the officially nonaligned country as a base to supply their forces in South Vietnam. On Benavidez's second deployment, he aided a unit surrounded by NVA troops and in the process suffered wounds so severe that he looked like a "human ketchup bottle." Blehm's harrowing and bloody descriptions of the fighting reveal how these missions depended on the paratroopers' mix of superior skill and sheer audacity. Benavidez's incredible actions earned him high accolades; years later, when news of his deeds spread following publication a story in his Texas hometown newspaper, his fellow soldiers pressed for Benavidez to receive his "long-overdue and unfairly denied Congressional Medal of Honor." Blehm gives the jungle hell of the Vietnam War a graphic, suspenseful treatment. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Death of Small Creatures

Trisha Cull. Nightwood Editions (Partners Publishers Group, U.S. dist.; Harbour Publishing, Canadian dist.), $22.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-0-88971-307-9

"I am happy" and "I am in love" are welcome sentences near the close of Cull's soul-baring memoir. Before them, the author provides abundant testimony about arduous, disheartening years of complicated and overlapping sets of dysfunctional mind states that she refers to as severe depression (though one of her doctors prefers to label it a combination of bipolar and borderline personality disorders). Across autobiographical chapters in a shuffled chronology, she recounts episodes from childhood as well as adult instances of violent mood swings, delusional states, suicidal yearnings, "seven years of perpetual hangovers," bankruptcy and subsistence on disability checks, experiences of pure mental chaos, paranoia, and obsession. Portraying a "world of self-abuse and addiction," Cull also reveals her serial unhealthy attachments, self-cutting, binging and purging, manic but bottomless appetite for street drugs and over the counter medication, often numb or hopeless outlook, and nine sessions of electroconvulsive therapy. Via blog and journal entries, memories, emails, and clinician notes, she immerses readers in the profound mire of her former condition. Though Cull's seeming narcissism and overly mannered lyrical prose may discourage some readers, others interested in a detailed personal account of the stormy workings of mental illness may find therapeutic worth in its flow of plaintive words. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Constitution: An Introduction

Michael Stokes Paulsen and Luke Paulsen. Basic, $28.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-465-05372-8

Constitutional scholar Michael Stokes Paulsen and his son, Luke, offer an uncomplicated but sophisticated primer on the U.S. Constitution that is kept lively by their unabashedly candid evaluations of important Supreme Court opinions. They cover the basics well, with thoughtful interpretations of groundbreaking opinions on the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment, the abortion rights case Roe v. Wade, and the 14th Amendment, which was designed to provide equal rights to citizens regardless of race. Beyond the basics, the book features in-depth treatment of the founders' approach to the issue of slavery as well as how the Supreme Court approached constitutional amendments aimed at ending discrimination in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. About the latter, the authors bluntly state that the Supreme Court embraced discrimination, contrary to the intent of the amendments. The discussion is highly relevant to the question of race in contemporary America. Readers will also appreciate the analysis of the constitutionally set boundaries of legislative and presidential powers, a hotly debated issue at the moment. The Paulsens humanize their approach by including brief profiles of individuals at the center of Constitutional moments, including Dred Scott, Ernesto Miranda, and Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe). This is a useful, accessible, and pertinent overview that is well seasoned with opinion. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Call Sign Extortion 17: The Shoot-Down of SEAL Team Six

Don Brown. Globe Pequot/Lyons, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4930-0746-2

On August 6, 2011, 30 Americans, including an elite Navy SEAL team, died in a helicopter crash over Logar Province, Afghanistan—the deadliest single American loss of the Afghan war. Novelist and retired naval officer Brown (The Malacca Conspiracy) posits that the subsequent inquiry was a cover-up and finds plenty of questions left unanswered. His smoking gun was the presence of seven unidentified Afghan soldiers on the craft, a fact suppressed for over a year. Were they Taliban sympathizers? Why were Special Forces units being carried into battle in an old Chinook, a vulnerable Vietnam-era helicopter? Why were the pilots National Guardsmen instead of the usual Special Operations aviators? Why did an unidentified Coalition unit visit the crash site and leave before the rescue team arrived? To Brown this is an especially curious detail, considering the helicopter's black box was never found. Other mysteries remain, and Brown concludes that the truth would embarrass the military, so leaders made sure the investigation absolved everyone. Brown makes no claim to partiality, and his temper, nationalism, and contempt for Afghans on both sides do not help his argument, but few readers will deny the deeply suspicious nature of that disastrous mission's aftermath. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Loving Our Addicted Daughters Back to Life: A Guidebook for Parents

Linda Dahl. Central Recovery (HCI, dist.), $16.95 (180p) ISBN 978-1-937612-85-6

Novelist (Cleans Up Nicely) and biographer Dahl has done her homework on the topic of gender-specific treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, and she presents her findings in a thorough and forthright manner. Dahl is a recovering alcoholic and mother of a young woman with addiction issues, so she's clearly personally engaged with her subject, but her primary focus is on providing useful information to others. Dahl points out that "girls and young women are the fastest-growing group of addicts in the country," and risky substance use is the number one public healthcare problem for U.S. youth, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University She walks readers through the process of turning addiction around, going over the warning signs of substance abuse, when and how to intervene, the benefits of gender-specific recovery programs (preferably inpatient, with strong aftercare), and other topics. Female addicts, she notes, are particularly prone to guilt and shame, and may require longer treatment plans than males. Dahl also includes a helpful assessment of specific types of treatment facilities. This compassionate and invaluable guide will aide parents as they set out to support their addicted daughters on the journey to recovery and healing. (June)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Saint's Vigil

Bryan Phoenix. Sigil/Crawlspace, $19.99 trade paper (408p) ISBN 978-1941606995

Phoenix's debut swings perilously between the brutality of a snuff film and the piety of an evangelical tract. Hugh, a tough cop with a heart of gold, is determined to avenge his fellow cops' deaths by taking down a family of mass-murdering vampires. Saundra, a vaguely religious single mother of two, must fight the corruption of her soul after being bitten. Fans of gory B-movie horror may find entertainment in the action sequences filled with mutilated throats and roasted corpses. Those with more delicate stomachs may not make it far enough to discover the bizarre dialogue, half in thick dialect and half woodenly straightforward, or the classically literal deus ex machina that forms the book's climax. Phoenix's vampires represent all of humanity's "lost" bad habits, which may explain why his bland heroes are devoid of any compelling flaws. The bad guys don't have real motives or interesting characterization either, reading more as haphazard conglomerations of nasty deeds. Phoenix has a good point to make about the glamour of corruption in our society, but it's lost in an inconsistent, preachy narrative populated by dull characters. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Winter Long

Seanan McGuire. DAW, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-0-7564-0808-4

McGuire continues the misadventures of changeling PI October Daye in this intense eighth urban fantasy novel (after Chimes at Midnight), which serves to wrap up and tie together many storylines from the previous installments. Toby Daye gets the shock of her lifetime when her old enemy, Simon Torquill—the man who turned her into a fish for 14 years—shows up on her doorstep, claiming he's been on her side all along. The shock compounds when she learns that they're related. Finally, it seems as though Toby will learn the true motivations behind the fateful events of so long ago, but the true mastermind is the last person she'd ever expect. Now Toby and her friends must face off against a terrifyingly powerful foe before the entire hidden kingdom of the Fae falls under the sway of evil. As usual, McGuire puts her heroine through the wringer, repeatedly pushing her to the brink of death in her quest to do the right thing. The tension is high, and the stakes have never been higher, as McGuire draws on elements all the way from the beginning of the series to deliver a pulse-pounding, often surprising tale. Agent: Diana Fox, Fox Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Prince Who Loved Me

Karen Hawkins. Pocket, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-4516-8524-4

In this light and humorous Scottish Regency, which opens the Oxenburg Princes series, Hawkins (How to Entice an Enchantress) introduces Prince Alexsey Romanovin of Oxenburg: kind, intelligent, devastatingly handsome, and utterly resistant to his grandmother's wish that he wed. Miss Bronwyn Murdoch, on the shelf at 24, has given up on marriage and instead seeks solace in the romance of books and the upcoming debut seasons of her beautiful stepsisters. When the prince visits Bronwyn's town and they unexpectedly encounter each other in private, sparks fly, and the prince leaves determined to see more of the curvaceous and witty woman who never gave him her name. Bronwyn, however, is plagued by her newly-awakened passion when her stepmother announces that the prince is perfect for her stepsister. As the two struggle with their feelings and with society's strict rules and expectations, they must decide just how deep their emotions run. Readers will have to suspend belief at times, but red-hot passion, comical interludes, and an entertaining cast of secondary characters will certainly satisfy. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Midnight Queen

Sylvia Izzo Hunter. Ace, $15 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-425-27245-9

Magic, intrigue, and romance fuel Hunter's debut fantasy, which is set in an alternate Regency England. Graham "Gray" Marshall has been drained of his magic and blamed for the death of a fellow student at the College of Merlin in Oxford. He can't really refuse when his teacher, Prof. Appius Callender, drags him off to his distant country house for the summer break—even though he thinks Callender is part of a conspiracy to murder Lord Halifax, the Master of Merlin College. Gray is befriended by Callender's middle daughter, Sophie, and the two set to work uncovering the truth about the conspiracy. Along the way, they discover that Sophie's father has lied to her about her own magical abilities, and find the hidden truth about Sophie's own family history. Although the novel begins as Gray's story, Sophie quickly takes over the spotlight. Their romance, the twisty intrigue, and Hunter's colorful alt-Regency setting, complete with drawing rooms, balls, and barouches, will charm fans of romantic fantasy. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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