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The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Montali, $29.95 (330p) ISBN 978-0-9906272-0-3

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Patrick-Goudreau (On Being Vegan) presents a compassionate and reasoned approach to vegan living and eating in this volume. Her stated goal is to help readers navigate the first 30 days of a vegan diet, providing support and guidance and answering questions along the way. Patrick-Goudreau covers the basics of what to eat, includes an assortment of healthful vegan recipes, and also addresses the ethical and health issues underlying the vegan choice. She defines veganism (i.e., no animal flesh or products), and explains the benefits of a plant-based diet in fighting heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other problems. She also argues that compassion toward animals is reason in itself to follow the vegan path. Readers on the fence or just starting the vegan journey will appreciate the intelligent discussion of issues they will face (eating out, baking without eggs, finding protein sources, living cheese-less, etc.), and seasoned veganistas will enjoy the recipes and interesting factoids (how to make coconut bacon; Skittles no longer contain gelatin). Patrick-Goudreau helps vegan newbies navigate the choppy waters of social situations, celebrating holidays and “finding harmony in mixed households” as well. While clearly a devout vegan—even honey is nixed—Patrick-Goudreau stresses that intention is more important than perfection. With an earnest but level tone, she provides all the tools one needs for making the switch to vegan cuisine, values, and lifestyle. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Living Passionately

Edited by Maria Blon. Two Harbors, $19.99 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-63413-138-4

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In this essay collection, Blon and 21 others examine times of great adversity and how those experiences taught them valuable life lessons. The opening chapter exhorts readers to examine who they are and why they matter, and several poignant stories follow. A young mother whose eight-month-old child died from a congenital heart defect eventually learns to see “challenges as opportunities.” Blon’s daughter, Carina, volunteers in Haiti after the tragic 2010 earthquake, where she sets up a school and learns the importance of “observing and listening.” Shad St. Louis, who emigrated from Haiti to the U.S. as an infant, returns to his homeland to help with Carina’s project, discovering in the process that hope and perseverance can change anyone’s life. Financial planner Charles Yarnold learns his father hid his Parkinson’s from his family for years, which he takes as an illustration of the importance of relationships. Bradley Nelson, after originally planning to get an M.B.A., instead becomes a holistic chiropractic physician; this teaches him to listen and then act. Sue Keane, whose 32-year-old son functions at the mental level of a three-month-old, discusses how even in the darkest of situations, it’s important to enjoy life. Blon and her coauthors tug at the heartstrings while teaching readers to follow their own passions. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Home with Henry: A Memoir

Anne Kaier. PS Books, $15 trade paper (108p) ISBN 978-0-990-47151-6

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This endearing pet memoir begins in 1997 when copy writer Kaier encounters a cat in the middle of the road on her commute home from work. She proceeds to pull the car around, park on side of the road, and stop traffic just long enough to scoop up the poor orange fur ball and rush it to the veterinarian. Little does Kaier know that adopting this cat, a frightened, untrusting ball of orange fur with great green eyes who she names Henry, would prove to be an exercise in patience—the early days of his adoption are spent with him hissing and spitting at her from underneath her guest room bed. In direct contrast, Kaier’s other cat, Lucille, an affectionate feline rescued in a rainstorm, is curious to meet her new cat companion but must be content with momentary glimpses through the slightly ajar door. One day, Henry gathers the courage to explore the author’s Philadelphia townhouse and slowly integrates himself into Kaier and Lucille’s lives. This sweet little book lovingly recounts the journey of trust both Anne and Henry take together and in their own time. Readers who have rescued pets and have given them the grace and love they needed to learn to trust again will see themselves in Kaier and will cheer for Henry when he finally allows his rescuer to reach out and pet the soft fur behind his ears. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Bad Dyke: Salacious Stories from a Queer Life

Alison Moon. Lunatic Ink, $9.99 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-0-9838309-7-9

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Moon’s (Girl Sex 101) voice is clear, frank, and refreshingly without shame as she recounts her winding and often-confusing path toward discovering her sexual identity. While at first these descriptions of vaguely connected sexual adventures and awakenings seems profoundly personal and even self-indulgent, messages quickly begin to emerge, shining a sly light on issues like bi erasure, elitism within the lesbian community, and the challenges of living with shifting and fluid sexual identities. This series of vignettes illuminates the life and path of one “dyke,” and at the same time it offers a positive example for others who are still trying to find their own voices and their own way. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Between These Walls

John Herrick. Segue Blue, $15.95 trade paper (470p) ISBN 978-0-9915309-1-5

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Herrick (The Landing) will make waves—particularly with Christian conservatives—with this tale that explores the uneasy intersection of Christianity and homosexuality. Hunter Carlisle has hidden his attraction to men since middle school, a secret he buried even more deeply when he became a Christian. He dated girls, hoping to be “cured,” he says, but his feelings didn’t change. He meets Gabe, a massage therapist, and in one jolting moment Hunter’s life changes forever. When their relationship is discovered, Hunter must come clean to his pastor, girlfriend, family, and friends about who he is. Herrick explores the struggle Hunter faces, offering readers a unique look at how gay Christians might feel—which is the strength of the book. Its shortcomings are its length and inadequate ending. Sex scenes and swearing, plus the topic, will keep this off most evangelical Christian bookstore shelves. It may find more sales online, where those struggling with this issue may be quietly searching for answers. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Painting the Moon

Traci Borum. Red Adept (red-adeptpublishing.com), $14.99 trade paper (310p) ISBN 978-1-940-21532-7

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As a child and teenager, Noelle Cooke spent enchanted summers in England with her grandmother; her great-aunt, Joy Valentine, a famous painter; and her best friends, Jillian and Adam. Now in her 30s, she lives in San Diego with an unfulfilling job and a series of dead-end relationships. When she receives a letter informing her that the mysteriously reclusive Joy has died, leaving Noelle the sole heir of a Cotswold cottage and a failing art gallery, she expects to spend a few days winding up Joy’s affairs before returning to California. But the discovery of a locked room full of masterpieces worth millions changes her plans, as do renewed friendships with Jillian and a nascent romantic connection with Adam, who is now a successful architect—and has a fiancée. Noelle’s discovery of her aunt’s journal and her parsing the secrets of her artwork is more intriguing than her faux-innocent and flirtatious relationship with Adam as they revisit the near-romance of their adolescence. Agent: Steven Chudney, Chudney Agency. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Beyond Cloud Nine

Greg Spry. Greg Spry, $4.99 e-book (391p) ISBN 978-0-990822-41-7

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Spry’s debut, which kicks off his Beyond saga, is a fast-paced, old-fashioned space opera that effectively draws readers into his created universe. In 2247, Lt. Brooke Davis is serving as an Aerospace Defense pilot in the Jupiter orbit, with dreams of becoming the “first human to fly faster than light.” Complications in her prenatal gene therapy have given her “upper-percentile spatial awareness,” which she’s supplemented with nanorobotic narcotics. Brooke needs all her skills to survive an explosion on Europa that claims 50,000 lives and may have been the work of terrorists—or previously unknown aliens. The truth behind the attack is also being probed by Brooke’s estranged sister, Marie, a reporter in Chicago. The mystery unfolds against an interesting backdrop; advances in biology allow for “mental pathway reconfiguration” and the prevention of birth defects. Despite scientific progress, humankind is still at war with itself. Brooke, who’s haunted by guilt over the circumstances of her father’s death, is a nicely flawed lead, and the ending makes the prospect of the sequel intriguing. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Saffron

Vic Warren. CreateSpace, $10.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-14961-7327-0

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Diver Jamie Edmondson gets a call from a rich eccentric to investigate rumors of strange creatures off the shore of present-day California. After discovering a race of undersea humanoids, Jamie fights to keep them out of the hands of the government in the first book of a series that features a great premise but falters in execution. While the imagination and wonder of finding the telepathic Neptunes balances out some of the bad dialogue (such as Jamie’s unironic exclamation of “You fiend!”), Warren (Stairway of the Gods) falls quickly into relying on caricatures of evil government agents and noble employees within a corrupt system. Most egregious is the lack of agency for Jamie’s hot actress girlfriend, Mercy, who exists primarily to be kidnapped, and the completely unnecessary sexual assault of a young Neptune to prove how evil the government is. This missed opportunity sinks under the weight of its faults. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Fleeting Chance: An Enescu Fleet Mystery

Sherban Young. MysteryCaper, $29 (240p) ISBN 978-0-991232-46-8

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Young’s fourth Enescu Fleet mystery (after 2013’s Fleeting Note) is a nice blend of humor and detection, with a clever resolution that may surprise even veteran whodunit readers. “Sort of a modern, bearded Sherlock Holmes with a pronounced Hemingway complex,” Fleet and his loyal sidekick, John Hathaway—who’s about to marry his longtime love interest, Lesley Darlington—are among the passengers on The Stacked Deck, a yacht off the coast of Astorbay, Canada. A late-night poker game turns unexpectedly eventful when the play is interrupted by a cry of “man overboard.” Fleet quickly retrieves the fallen passenger, math professor Arnold Bernard, from the cold waters, but when John returns to the parlor to resume the game, he finds that another player, Leslie MacDonald, has been stabbed to death. MacDonald’s death is not the end of the violence, and a disappearance ups the ante for John significantly. Readers who prefer murder puzzles with a light touch will be satisfied. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Double Cover: A Warren Kingsley Mystery

Sherban Young. MysteryCaper, $29 (176p) ISBN 978-0-9912324-2-0

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Bertie Wooster fans will appreciate Warren Kingsley, the inept star of this comic mystery, which will have readers chuckling. Warren has just taken on a new job, protecting businessman Thomas Redding on a trip to Berwald Island, Conn., when someone bludgeons Redding to death in his hotel room. Confined to the island due to the broken ferry and fearing for his life, Warren gets his own bodyguard in the form of short but sturdy Borodin Mahrute. The pair soon do their own sleuthing to identify Redding’s killer. Young does a decent job of recreating Wodehouse’s style (“It seemed pretty clear to Warren, though, that if 007 happened to stop by for the weekend it would probably turn out that Mahrute had once saved him from the clutches of a double agent, and it would only be a matter of time before the two were guzzling brandy and laughing about the good old days”). (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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