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Transparent: How to See Through the Powerful Assumptions that Control You

David W. Richardson Jr. Clovercroft, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-942557-56-2

According to Richardson, founder and president of the Assumptions Institute ministry, assumptions are crucial elements of human nature that control thought processes and actions on a daily basis. Writing extensively about what he describes as different types of assumer personalities, he uses the Lewis and Clark expedition as a simplistic analogy for his quest to map the psychological effects of assumptions. Richardson introduces the Critical Assumptions Test, a tool to help visualize where assumptions come from, such as news stories and movies. He takes the reader through exercises to learn how to better use the CAT in evaluating assumptions and seeing how “God truly gives knowledge, wisdom, and guidance.” At times, the book becomes bogged down in theory, but Richardson achieves his goal of explaining how the CAT tool can be beneficial to those looking to deepen their faith. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Time to Live, a Time to Die

Nancy Magargle. Carpenter’s Son, $14.99 trade paper (229p) ISBN 978-1-942587-77-4

Magargle shares the faith-shattering experience of choosing to remove life support from her daughter in this lyrical memoir. In 1993, Magargle’s college-bound daughter, Stacey, was involved in a serious car crash while the rest of the family was away on vacation. The family raced home only to learn that massive brain trauma had left Stacy nonresponsive. For the next several months, Magargle and her husband agonized and struggled with the faint hope that Stacy’s condition might improve. Magargle charts her frustrations with health insurance companies, medical professionals, and well-meaning but inappropriately meddling acquaintances as she wrestled with a life-or-death decision. In between discussions of brain injuries and her emotional challenges, Magargle offers key points for others to consider when wondering what a Christian response to hopeless medical scenarios should be, such as faith in God’s love and living with grace. Some of Magargle’s lingering irritation with her husband and others still bleeds through despite her claim of transformative forgiveness, and she occasionally gets lost in emotive but meandering descriptions. But as a candid look at end-of-life decisions, Magargle’s memoir will help others approach the issue with more hope and empathy. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Asheville Movies, Vol. 1: The Silent Era

Frank Thompson. Men with Wings, $15.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-9987699-0-5

In a pleasant stroll through a nearly forgotten part of the early movie industry, film historian Thompson (Texas Hollywood: Filmmaking in San Antonio Since 1910) gathers up tales of silent filmmaking in bucolic Asheville, N.C. By the late 19th century, Asheville was well-known as a resort area and playground of the wealthy—George Vanderbilt erected Biltmore House, a 250-room mansion, as a summer home there in 1895—and was easily accessible by railroad. With views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to provide picturesque scenery, the city also possessed plenty of visual appeal. By 1900, films were being shot there by two of the largest studios then operating, Vitagraph and Biograph. Thompson finds stories of Asheville locals eagerly volunteering, and even paying, to become actors and extras. Quotations from local newspaper interviews with actors and film crews describing how much they’re enjoying their time in Asheville also make it amusingly evident that even then the film industry knew how to endear itself to its fans. Only marred by the occasional slip into a gratingly folksy prose style, this is a well-researched and carefully indexed book that joyfully chronicles a bygone era. 133 photos. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Begin Again

Crystal Walton. Impact Editions, $13 trade paper (346p) ISBN 978-0-9862882-8-9

Walton (Write Me Home) delivers heart-wrenching emotion in the second book of her romantic contemporary Home in You series. Ti is a former model who has fled her art studio in Astoria, N.Y., after receiving a threatening call, seeking shelter on the shores of Ocracoke, N.C., despite having an extreme fear of the ocean. While there, she encounters Drew, a single father struggling to raise his ten-year-old daughter, Maddie, and maintain the store his father built. But Drew is close to the end of his rope: the shop isn’t doing well, and Maddie has been recently diagnosed with an immune disorder that brings the medical bills pouring in. But Ti doesn’t see a struggling man. Instead, she sees a grump who needs to be shaken out of his comfortable (and failing) ways, and so she sets herself up as a consultant with the idea of helping Drew succeed. Quickly, though, she finds that she needs Drew and Maddie just as much as they need her. Walton’s writing is lyrical but not cloying. This classic love story will have readers enthralled until the last page. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Moriarty Meets His Match: A Professor and Mrs. Moriarty Mystery

Anna Castle. Anna Castle, $15.95 trade paper (344p) ISBN 978-1-945382-03-1

In this witty series launch set in Victorian London from Castle (the Francis Bacon mysteries), Professor James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis, is no criminal mastermind. Rather, he’s an assistant examiner at the Patent Office, with a firm and fierce sense of justice. At the vast and hugely popular International Inventions Exhibition, Moriarty is on hand to unmask the anomalies in a newly designed steam engine. When the engine explodes, killing a man, Moriarty realizes that he must find out who tampered with the device or risk being blamed for the death. Shortly before this tragedy, Moriarty meets a beautiful American widow, Angelina Gould, who has come to London, ostensibly for the 1885 social season. As the mutual attraction between Moriarty and Angelina blossoms, the cunning lady introduces the professor to both love and larceny. As the subtitle suggests, the pair eventually wed. Readers will look forward to the couple’s further adventures. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Falcon Confession

John V. Norris. John Norris, $11.99 trade paper (470p) ISBN 978-0-9967618-9-5

Debut novelist Norris tells this tale of the Norman Conquest well enough, but its subplot of nefarious intrigue rings hollow. In the summer of 1065, Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Wessex, returns from months of captivity in Normandy to England, where his old friend, Bishop Wulfstan, must hear his confession and see that it is recorded. Harold, Wulfstan, the young scribe Aidan, and Harold’s wife, Edith Swanneschals, each face difficulties leading up to and following the battles of 1066. Harold, as Norris writes him, is seeking to foil the plans of Bishop Odo of Bayeaux, Duke William of Normandy’s half-brother. To the modern reader, Odo’s intentions to “destroy the Islamic realms” seem extreme, but they don’t feel out of place for a medieval clergyman. The reactions of Harold, Wulfstan, and their circle to Odo’s plans are more like those of contemporary people rather than people of the Middle Ages; at a time when war was a fact of life, Harold’s and Wulfstan’s recoiling seems out of place. Norris describes the battle action nicely, but the motivations don’t fit. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Jelly Donut Difference: Sharing Kindness with the World

Maria Dismondy, illus. by P.S. Brooks. Cardinal Rule, $10.95 paper (32p) ISBN 978-0-9976085-0-2

Dismondy introduces twins Dexter and Leah, who squabble with each other but extend kindness to an elderly neighbor. While picking up eggs from Ms. Marvis, who lives nearby, Dexter notices how quiet her house is and suggests that his parents invite her over for dinner. During the meal, Ms. Marvis shares stories of making paczki (jelly donuts) with her family in Poland before Lent; with help from their father, the children whip up a batch of paczki for their neighbor, who responds with a long thank-you note. British author-illustrator Brooks evokes the story’s wintertime setting through a minty palette of pale blues, pinks, and greens, contrasting cozy kitchen-centric scenes with outdoor flurries and snowdrifts. Although both children seem to recognize the rewards of their kind actions, neither grows much as a character: Dexter starts and finishes the book as an empathetic peacemaker, while Leah is antagonistic and not much else. Even so, this earnest story of being a good sibling, neighbor, and friend may inspire readers to find ways to be generous in their own lives. All that’s missing is a paczki recipe. Ages 4–8. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/11/2017 | 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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