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I Didn’t Believe Any of This Hippie Dippy Bulls**t Either: A Skeptic’s Awakening to the Spiritual Universe

Julie Rasmussen. Red Renegade, $14.95 trade paper (198p) ISBN 978-0-692-08090-0

This irreverent debut spiritual memoir delivers evocative humor but never gets much below the surface. The primary arc concerns the author’s growing understanding of her connection with her “twin flame,” a person with whom one shares a type of soul connection that she says is much rarer than that shared by soulmates. Although Rasmussen is sure that Bo, whom she met through an online dating service, is her twin flame when the book opens, the relationship remains in flux over the course of her mystical awakening. Readers will enjoy her clever imagery and snarky self-analysis but in the end will find coincidence-loving Rasmussen (she sees signs in license plates) as remarkably gullible. The story of her on-again-off-again relationship with Bo and his spiritual growth path is unsatisfyingly incomplete. Although Rasmussen professes a belief in a connected universe, there isn’t much clarity in her assertion or proof in her personal story to back up her claims. The author’s foul-mouthed humor helps make this entry stand out among other spiritual memoirs, but the derivative message and excessive confidence with which Rasmussen offers herself as a spiritual model make this a poor source of guidance. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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God’s Grand Design for Health

James Darnell. WestBow, $13.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-5127-8641-5

Darnell, a chiropractor and holistic counsellor, introduces his system of spiritual and physical health in this clear and helpful book. Taking readers beyond symptoms and into the intricate world of the symbiotic relationships between bodies and their surrounding environments, Darnell explores how diet, the environment, and the delicate balance of pH in the body may affect all aspects of health. In his opening chapters he uses many charts and lists to explain the increasingly poor health of U.S. citizens. He then dives into his holistic approach, which focuses primarily on cell health and reduction of inflammation. While most of his medical advice comes in the form of dietary and nutritional tips, he also insists that personal harmony begins with spiritual harmony. A devout Christian, Darnell uses biblical quotes to reinforce his ideas: “We are appointed stewards to what God has given us... to whom much is given, much is required.” With great detail on the causes and effects of inflammation, the influence of free radicals, the best sources for vitamins and minerals, and the sources of toxins in foods, Darnell provides a wealth of health information in a small space. This is a readable, practical guide for any Christian reader who wishes to find a path to healthier living. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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On the Edge of Daylight: A Novel of the Titanic

Giselle Beaumont. Trek, $11.99 trade paper (474p) ISBN 978-1-980593-22-5

In this beautifully crafted historical romance about the journey and eventual sinking of the Titanic, debut author Beaumont weaves facts with fiction to create a transcendent tale. The author modestly points out that the novel is not a 100% accurate portrayal of the tragedy, but it’s close enough that readers will feel as if they have experienced the disaster personally. When feisty Seventh Officer Esther Bailey and her commanding officer, Will Murdoch, meet, cutting wit ensues—and the two quickly recognize their sparring as enticing foreplay. Rules prohibit a romance until the ship docks in New York, leaving simmering, suppressed sexual chemistry woven throughout the story. When the Titanic meets its date with destiny, Esther and Will realize that not everyone gets a tomorrow—and that their roles must give them the courage to help others. Vivid descriptions bring the reader onto the doomed ship as characters shrink in terror from the inevitable, pray for rescue, and grieve for the lost. Beaumont heartbreakingly chronicles survivor’s guilt wrapped in a history lesson, and ably portrays the heroism and honor of the men and women of the sea. This expertly characterized and tautly plotted story is an extremely impressive debut. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Pathogen Protocol

Darren D. Beyer. Darren D. Beyer, $13.99 trade paper (579p) ISBN 978-0-9973366-1-0

Like ripples in a pond, this frenetic space opera sequel to Casimir Bridge moves in bigger and bigger circles outward from the splashy events detailed in the opening volume. Jans Mikel and the other leaders of Applied Interstellar Corp., reeling from the invasion of their extrasolar headquarters, try to keep their source of the wormhole-generating hyperium hidden while security chief Grae Raymus organizes the resistance. Rival corporate power Tech Standard and its head operative, Erik Hallerson, force the issue by seizing the remaining known hyperium supplies, bringing the three Earth superpowers into their court. Mikel’s agent, Mandi Nkosi, makes a desperate attempt to contact a rogue AIC officer who’s now leading an Outer Sphere terrorist group. Beyer gives the reader little time to soak up atmosphere or to puzzle out the mysteries of his universe (such as the presence of telepathic alien AIs that boost human intelligence), but the fast pacing, occasional humor, and clear split between the good guys and bad guys push a lot of questions out of the way as the action pulls the reader forward. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Terminal

John Leifer. Earhart, $12.99 trade paper (366p) ISBN 978-0-9995655-2-0

Leifer (The Myths of Modern Medicine) makes his fiction debut with this suspenseful and alarming kickoff to a trilogy. Cmdr. John Hart has an impressive resume. A former Navy Seal with degrees in medicine and nuclear engineering, he officially works with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is part of the counterterrorism team that addresses the threat of bioweapons. He faces his greatest challenge when Ibrahim Almasi al-Bakr, the founder of the United Islamic State, sets a diabolical plan in motion to devastate the U.S., making use of a “virus of unimaginable destructive power.” Al-Bakr intends to target America’s four busiest air terminals with the highly contagious disease, which was developed as part of a covert Soviet biowarfare program. Hart’s desperate efforts to avert disaster are aided by his colleague and former lover, Elizabeth Wilkins, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control. While the overall plotline isn’t new, Leifer, who has served on a presidential panel headed by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, makes the details plausible. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Italian Couple

J.R. Rogers. J.R. Rogers, $4.99 e-book (434p) ASIN B07C4XW4MY

This suspenseful combination romance and espionage thriller centers on a married couple in despair in Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini’s rule. In 1938, in the city of Asmara, known as Little Rome in the Italian Eritrea colony of East Africa, Col. Francesco Ferrazza, a cagey Italian military information officer, is tasked with Operation Red Lion, a sabotage operation ordered by Mussolini. Through manipulation and enticements, the colonel begins to groom local mechanic and novice race car driver Mario Caparrotti to carry out the destruction; one of the colonel’s schemes includes Mario becoming the lover of the colonel’s wife, British-born Emilia, who reluctantly goes along with the ruse. The sabotage scheme begins unraveling when Mario demands more money after becoming involved in the colonel’s cover-up of a murder, and Emilia begins an affair with Gyles Aiscroft, a British freelance foreign correspondent and part-time intelligence agent working for her father. The novel’s pacing is skillful and precise, leading ultimately to an unforeseen and terrifically satisfying ending. Rogers’s depiction of Asmara—its strategic significance, architecture, and how it was modeled after a typical Italian city, even incorporating a car race with Mario as a driver in the novel’s introduction—is both a richly visual impression of Rome and a dark reminder of Mussolini’s rule. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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A Strange Companion

Lisa Manterfield. Steel Rose, $5.99 e-book (342p) ASIN B06XB85BD8

Manterfield’s bittersweet debut follows a young woman’s attempt to recover from overwhelming loss. Seventeen-year-old Kat Richardson thought she and her boyfriend, Gabe, would marry and spend their lives together. But those plans are dashed when Gabe dies in a rock climbing accident. Two years later, Kat has been having trouble moving on—until she meets handsome fellow university student Owen, whose playful and earnest personality has started to heal Kat’s broken heart. But their budding relationship is interrupted when she returns home to meet her new niece, Mai, who’s been adopted by her brother and his husband. There, Kat is confronted with the possibility that Gabe has been reincarnated as Mai. Manterfield presents the idea of reincarnation with just the right balance of skepticism and hope as Kat questions both her mind and feelings while acknowledging that “The problem with grief was that it didn’t come with a user manual.” This thoughtful story about learning how to live after loved ones are gone will captivate readers. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Soul Mender

R.S. Dabney. Red Pen Warriors, $14.99 trade paper (380p) ISBN 978-0-692-47201-9

A familiar science fiction theme—a parallel reality populated by alter egos of the inhabitants of our own—gets a fresh spin in this intriguing variant of a dark fantasy. Since childhood, Riley Dale, an environmental scientist living in Boulder, Colo., has been plagued by visions. Then she unexpectedly crosses over into the world of her imaginings with the help of a magic ring left to her by her grandmother. Partnering with Oz, a drug-addicted ne’er-do-well who represents the other half of her divided soul, and protector Zachary Stone, who’s a serial killer in her own world, Riley travels cross-country to Los Angeles, the terrorist-bombed capital of this alternate U.S., to learn the crucial role she must play in events rocking the parallel world. Dabney’s writing is crisp and confident, and her characters—including both of their personalities—are well-developed. She introduces more subplots than can be resolved by the novel’s end, making this a promising start for a projected trilogy. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Hunting in the Zoo: A Detective Pete Nazareth Novel

R.H. Johnson. Hampton, Westbrook, $17.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-5323-0214-5

Johnson’s suspenseful third novel featuring Det. Pete Nazareth of the NYPD (after A Measure of Revenge) places presidential candidate Archer Grande, who boasts that he could “stroll naked down Fifth Avenue, and my supporters would still vote for me,” in the crosshairs of an assassin. Nazareth is half of a team dubbed the Dynamic Duo, after he and fellow detective Tara Gimble amassed an impressive record for “not only closing the toughest cases but also for putting themselves in harm’s way again and again to get the job done right.” New York City’s mayor taps the pair to go after Stone Jackson, an expert sniper who has begun taking out child molesters, starting with the Little League coach who abused him. As Nazareth and Gimble search for Jackson, the killer ups the ante after concluding that Grande is a dangerous demagogue. Unexpected developments ratchet up the tension en route to a dramatic climax. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Flame Eater

Barbara Gaskell Denvil. Gaskell Publishing House, $4.99 e-book (424p) ASIN B01B8SEC3S

This meticulously detailed romantic thriller portrays two flawed families in medieval England whose less moral members are victims of a murderer/arsonist. The families are united in 1485 when heiress Emeline Wrotham marries Nicholas Chatwyn, an earl’s son and the aloof, scarred younger brother of Emeline’s true love, Peter, who was murdered. On their wedding night, the castle is engulfed in flames, and Nicholas is injured. Emeline and Nicholas, who is still recovering from extensive burns, depart for his cousin’s Nottingham home while the castle is being repaired, but an outbreak of the plague sends them away, eventually to London. During their travels, the marriage is consummated, and they become true partners, in love and in adventures. Charismatic and witty, Nicholas is the heart of Denvil’s novel; he works undercover for King Richard, rooting out political threats while maintaining the persona of a lazy drunkard to his disapproving father, whose favorite son is dead. Denvil’s numerous minor characters are as intriguing as Nicholas, infusing vitality and never detracting from the story. Everyday 15th-century life is richly evoked—the clothing, food, travel, habits—providing substance to a winning narrative. Family dysfunction is deftly woven into a mélange of murder, politics, and romance, with a wickedly realistic, often comical portrayal of kinship. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 11/04/2016 | Details & Permalink

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